Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Take Me with U" by Prince & the Revolution

Song#:  2213
Date:  02/09/1985
Debut:  61
Peak:  25
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The soundtrack to Purple Rain had already generated four Top 10 hits including two #1's and was still sitting atop the album chart finishing up its 24-week run at #1 when this fifth single was released. Although mainly credited to Prince & the Revolution, it was actually a duet between Prince and the film's co-star Apollonia. The song couldn't quite grab the same audience as the previous singles and it stalled short of the Pop Top 20. It could only get to a low #40 R&B as well. This would bring an end to the singles from Purple Rain, but before the summer of '85 would arrive, Prince would already be back on the chart with new material.

ReduxReview:  Thankfully, Prince had the foresight and brains to pull this for the movie (see below). Otherwise, this song probably would have been lost with the sinking Apollonia 6 ship. The song was a terrific add to the movie and it was a good single as well. I'm just guessing it didn't become another Top 10'er because radio was still saturated with Prince songs and the soundtrack was beginning to wane in popularity. Plus, it had to have been known that Prince already had an album in the can by this point and folks were anxious for new material. Regardless, this song is yet another winner from the album, despite Apollonia's anemic vocals.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was written and recorded for inclusion on the debut album from Apollonia 6. However, at the last minute Prince pulled the song from that project and pushed it over to Purple Rain. Due to time restrictions, the version on the soundtrack is about a minute shorter than the one intended for the Apollonia 6 LP. It's been said that Apollonia's voice was a bit weak and she had difficulty doing the vocals for this song. Apparently Revolution member Lisa Coleman then sang beneath Apollonia's vocal track to help boost her vocal. Whether or not that is true is up for debate, but Prince pretty much left Apollonia behind when the film ended and the contracted Apollonia 6 album was completed.

Friday, November 3, 2017

"Holyanna" by Toto

Song#:  2212
Date:  02/09/1985
Debut:  78
Peak:  71
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Toto's follow-up to their multi-Grammy winning album Toto IV was not doing all that well. Isolation got off to a bit of a shaky start when its first single, "Stranger in Town," failed to get near the Pop Top 10 (#30). While it was able to reach #7 at Rock, the results were not encouraging. Hoping to turn things around, the band issued this second single. Unfortunately, it did even worse and only managed a short stay near the bottom of the Pop chart. A third single, "How Does It Feel," was released, but it couldn't even chart. With little to promote the album, Isolation peaked at a very low #42 and could only muster gold-level sales. Coming off of a triple-platinum hit album, the results were highly disappointing.

ReduxReview:  Although I had hoped "Stranger in Town" would catch on, I thought the album was gonna tank after hearing it. The material just wasn't there and for the most part their slick soft rock was gone as well. This second single probably came closest to replicating their sound, but it still wasn't nearly as good as their previous hits. It kind of has a Supertramp feel to it with a little Chicago thrown in, which I like. However, that wasn't really enough to make me wanna keep replaying the tune. Plus, I weirdly think the title was a deterrent. It seems like it should be pronounced like two names - Holly and Anna. But it is Holy, like in something religious, which ties into the lyrics about Catholic school girls. Get it? I think they would have been better off with a different name and not worry about the religious tie-in. Regardless, it's an okay song that wasn't going to bring the band back to the Top 10.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After singer Bobby Kimball was released from Toto, they hired on Fergie Frederiksen to take his place. Frederiksen would sing lead vocals on the majority of tracks on Isolation (minus the two charting singles from the album, including this one). Known for being in rock bands, Frederiksen actually had a brush with disco music at the turn of the decade. Just as disco music was beginning to crash, a musical/comedy film based on the group The Village People was filmed. Titled Can't Stop the Music, the film was a very loose interpretation of how The Village People formed. It was a notorious box office bomb that was directed by Nancy Walker (of Rhoda fame). The musical featured several songs from The Village People, two from the disco act The Ritchie Family, and two from an artist named David London. London was actually Fergie Frederiksen. Although he didn't appear in the film, he somehow got work doing the vocals on the tracks "Samantha" and "The Sound of the City." The former song was issued as a single, but it didn't get anywhere. Yet somehow, the songs helped Frederiksen secure a record deal with the Scandinavian label Arrival and he recorded a self-titled album in 1981 under the David London name. After that adventure, he went back to his own name and worked with a few bands until landing the gig with Toto. Unfortunately, after the Isolation album and tour, the rest of the band decided that Frederiksen was not the right fit for them and dismissed him.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

"Second Nature" by Dan Hartman

Song#:  2211
Date:  02/09/1985
Debut:  80
Peak:  39
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyes Soul

Pop Bits:  Hartman's second single from his I Can Dream About You album, "We Are the Young," became a #1 Dance hit while getting to #25 at Pop. A third single, "Name of the Game," wasn't connecting and failed to break through, so this fourth single was quickly pushed out. It was able to reach #14 at AC and #40 Dance while just getting inside the Pop Top 40. Unfortunately, it would end up being Hartman's final single to reach the charts. He would continue to write and produce for other artists, which included James Brown's 1985 #4 hit "Living in America." Hartman would die of a brain tumor in 1994.

ReduxReview:  This song is kind of in the same league as Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" except not quite as fluffy and fun. Had this song been released before that one, there's a chance it might have done a little better, but it still wouldn't have been a Top 10 contender. It's another solid entry in Hartman's catalog and it's too bad his follow-up work didn't see the light of day (see below). Hartman and his co-writer Charlie Midnight knew how to write good songs, so it would have been interesting to hear more from them.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Hartman's label, MCA, was certainly pleased with the results from the album and were most likely anxious to get a new one out soon. Hartman went back to work in the studio and began recording his follow up. Titled White Boy, Hartman wanted to do something a bit edgier, complex, and more mature. When completed, he handed it in to the label. The folks there were less than pleased with the results. They wanted more "I Can Dream About You'' style hits and that is not what they got. Although the label recognized that the songs were actually quite good, they didn't think the songs suited the image Hartman had already established with his hits. Therefore, with the label not behind the album, it ended up getting shelved and still remains unreleased. However, one song from the album, "Waiting to See You," did find its way onto the soundtrack to the 1986 comedy Ruthless People. Another song from the album, "I'm Only Fooling Myself," was picked up and recorded by singer Paul Young. It was included on Young's 1991 hits compilation From Time to Time.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"One Foot Back in Your Door" by Roman Holliday

Song#:  2210
Date:  02/09/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  76
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This British band began to catch on thanks to their fun swing and rockabilly tunes. Their second single, "Don't Try to Stop It," became a #14 hit in the UK and was able to reach the US Pop chart at #68. Coupled with their first single, "Stand By," that got to #54 in the US, they seemed on the brink of breaking through in a bigger way. However, for their second album, the band decided to break away from the retro sounds that got them noticed and went in a more modern pop direction. Things got started with this first single that appeared on both the soundtrack to the film Teachers and their second LP Fire Me Up. The change wasn't greeted well and the song couldn't make its way out of the bottom quarter of the chart. It would end up being the band's final Pop chart single. The results didn't impress their label (Jive/Arista) and their contract ended. The band split soon after.

ReduxReview:  The abrupt change in sound was quite jarring and it turned an interesting band into a run-o-tha-mill pop group. I can only speculate as to why they made the change, but I'm guessing their label thought the retro shtick had limited appeal and pushed the band to become more in-line with current pop sounds. It just didn't work. It's like the soul was cut out of the group. When the thing that made you popular is gone, you better have something even better to retain/gain an audience. Unfortunately, they didn't and the results were not good. It's too bad, but at least they had a couple of years in the spotlight. This song just doesn't fit them. Even if it was another group I wouldn't be all that impressed. It's almost like it wants to be arena rock, yet it's trapped in a synthpop bubble. I'm sure that had to do with its writer/producer (see below). In the end it just sounds like an artist trying too hard to be something they are not.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  So, does a certain portion of this song remind you of another tune that ended up hitting #1? Listen to the pre-chorus of "One Foot." It's the section where the vocalist sings "non-stop miracle I'm your man." Sound familiar? It should if you know Billy Ocean's hit "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car." That pre-chorus section in "One Foot" was reused for the Billy Ocean song right before the chorus as well. So how is this not a plagiarism issue? It's because the songs share a writer. Popular producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange (Def Leppard, Shania Twain) wrote and produced "One Foot" for Roman Holliday. Then three years later, he recycled a snippet of the song when co-writing and producing "Get Outta My Car" with Billy Ocean. Both songs have a similar feel as well. I guess if it didn't work the first time, then try it somewhere else! In this case it worked out well.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

"Radioactive" by The Firm

Song#:  2209
Date:  02/09/1985
Debut:  86
Peak:  28
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock, Blues-Rock

Pop Bits:  This British band was considered a supergroup due to the participation of four highly successful musicians: Paul Rodgers (Free/Bad Company), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Chris Slade (Manfred Mann), and Tony Franklin. With their sound leaning towards a more radio-friendly blues-rock sound, the band recorded their self-titled debut album. This song was chosen as the first single and it was an immediate hit at Rock reaching the #1 spot. With that result and the video for the song doing well on MTV, the single made the Pop chart and peaked just inside the Top 30. It helped sell the album, which went to #17 and was a gold seller.

ReduxReview:  I usually always dig a fretless bass (see below) and weird guitar lines and this song had them both. Although I didn't think this was a fantastic song, I did like the tune and felt it was a bit Led Zeppelin-esque with a twist of modern flare. I remember seeing an interview with Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page when this album was coming out. A young, fresh-faced reporter (I think it was on MTV) asked them something like - "so is your song "Radioactive" a commentary on how rock and other styles of music are not getting played on mainstream radio stations which then leads to no action on the pop charts?" I completely remember both guys just giving the interviewer a weird look and I think it might have been Rodgers who then replied "Um, no man. I mean, it's just a song." It cracked me up. It was like asking Madonna if "Borderline" was about crossing war torn borders in the Middle East. I bet that reporter learned quickly about not reading too much into song lyrics...

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although Tony Franklin was the only one in the band that had not been a member of previously successful band, he had definitely made a name for himself working with popular British folk-rock musician Roy Harper and becoming proficient playing the fretless bass. It was his work on the fretless bass that helped to define The Firm's sound. A fretless bass (or even a guitar) is just what it says - the instrument has no frets, which are the metal bars seen up and down the neck of a bass or guitar. In addition to being guides for getting the correct notes, chords, and intonation, the sound made when a string is pressed down between the frets is different from when a string is pressed down with no frets on the neck. Franklin became known for his work on the fretless bass and his expertise and fame led to Fender creating and selling the Tony Franklin Fretless Precision Bass beginning in 2006. A fretted version was also issued in 2008.


Monday, October 30, 2017

"If I Had a Rocket Launcher" by Bruce Cockburn

Song#:  2208
Date:  02/09/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  88
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The last time Cockburn was on the US Pop chart was back in 1980 when his biggest hit, "Wondering Where the Lions Are," made it to #21. After that, he released three albums including what is considered by many his finest work, Humans. However, none of the albums produced any charting singles in the US. In 1984, he released another critically acclaimed LP titled Stealing Fire. The first single from that album, "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," did well in his homeland of Canada making it to #8 on the AC chart there (and #24 Pop). The song couldn't get anywhere in the US, however this third single from the album garnered enough support to reach the US Pop chart for a minor few weeks (#49 Canada Pop). It would be Cockburn's final single to reach the US Pop chart. He would continue to record and get singles on the Canadian chart throughout the 80's and 90's including 1989's #8 "If a Tree Falls," which would make it to #20 on the US Rock chart.

ReduxReview:  I like the production on this song. That opening is pretty cool and it sounds like something Peter Gabriel might have done. Of course the political aspect of the song may have turned off some folks, but I do like how Cockburn's passion shows through and that the lyrics don't really mince words. It's a pretty dark tune for Pop radio and I'm even surprised it got on the chart. It showed up very briefly, but I'm glad it at least made a little dent. It deserved (and still deserves) to be heard.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) As the 80s went on, Cockburn's albums began to get more political in nature, but after a trip to Central America his experiences and viewpoints flowed directly into Stealing Fire. It culminated in this angry, political song that was inspired by his trip to a Guatemalan refugee camp in Mexico. The last line in the final verse stated "if I had a rocket launcher, some son-of-a-bitch would die." That line was just a bit much for some radio stations and an edited version of the song that faded out before that last denouncement was circulated.  2) The other song from the album that charted in Canada, "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," was covered by the Canadian band Barenaked Ladies in 1991. They recorded it for a Cockburn tribute album. The song was eventually released as a single and it became the band's first charting hit in Canada reaching #16.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

"Save a Prayer" by Duran Duran

Song#:  2207
Date:  02/02/1985
Debut:  53
Peak:  16
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Duran Duran's live album Arena would be their best charting effort in the US. It reached #4 thanks to the inclusion of a new studio track, "The Wild Boys," which was issued as a single and peaked at #2. Although no other singles would be issued from the album, to help keep the band on the charts it was decided that a new remix of their 1982 song "Save a Prayer" would be issued as a single in the US. The b-side would contain a shortened edit of the live version of the song that appeared on Arena. The ballad did fine reaching the Pop Top 20, but it broke their string of five consecutive Top 10's.

ReduxReview:  This ballad showed a different side of Duran Duran and probably should have been released earlier during the run of Rio. I think if it had been a third single from the album, it might have done better than this delayed remix. By this point, Rio had been done for quite a while and many folks were already quite familiar with the song due to its original video getting a lot of airplay back then even though a single was not going to be issued. That familiarity wasn't going to do this single any favors and indeed even at the height of Duran mania, the song failed to crack the Top 10.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was originally a track on the band's 1982 album Rio. It was initially released as the album's third single in the UK and other countries, but it was not issued in the US. This was most likely because Duran Duran hit the US over six months after they became stars in the UK. With new product from the band arriving in short order, there was only time for two singles from Rio to be issued in the US. By late '83, the US was caught up and got product from the band in the same time frame as the UK and other countries. The initial UK release of "Save a Prayer" was a big hit reaching #2 on the chart. The US remix version was not released there.