Saturday, November 11, 2017

"Let's Talk About Me" by Alan Parsons Project

Song#:  2219
Date:  02/16/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  56
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  The Project's Ammonia Avenue became their sixth studio LP in a row to reach at least gold-level sales. That was thanks in part to the #15 Pop hit "Don't Answer Me." Less than a year after that album's release, the Project issued their follow-up, Vulture Culture. This song was the lead-off single and it did well at Rock radio reaching #10 on that chart. At Pop it didn't quite catch on and the single missed getting into the top half of the chart. With the song failing to grab a wider audience, the album struggled and ended up peaking at #46. It was their lowest charting studio LP to-date and it failed to go gold, which broke their long-standing streak of certified sellers.

ReduxReview:  I remember back when this song came out folks were saying that it sounded like a Supertramp song. I can certainly hear that, especially on the initial verse. The keyboards and punctuated band sounds did seem like something out of the Supertramp playbook, and I could hear Roger Hodgeson's voice sounding quite at home on this track. The comparison never bothered me. I've always liked the song. I just don't think it was the best choice for a single. Their track record of charting singles heavily leaned towards ones sung by Eric Woolfson, so why they didn't go with the "Eye in the Sky"-esqe "Sooner or Later" is beyond me. It seemed to me like the most obvious choice. I can only assume they were trying to break out of that mold, but it didn't quite work out. This is a good song, but perhaps not the most Pop friendly single candidate.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Originally, Ammonia Avenue was slated to be a double-album. Instead, the project was broken into two individual albums and the secondary tracks that became Vulture Culture were spruced up for released as a stand-alone LP.  2) This song contains voice-over sections that were provided by DJ and media executive Lee Abrams. Abrams has been credited with creating the AOR format (album-oriented rock) in the 70s. Later on, he was one of the co-founders of XM Satellite Radio, which later merged with Sirius.  3) The vocal on this track was provided by bassist David Paton. Paton had performed bass and sang background and lead vocals on other Project albums, but this was his first APP lead vocal song that became a single. Paton first encountered Alan Parsons back in the early 70s when Parsons produced the debut LP from the Scottish band Pilot, which Paton had co-founded. Paton co-wrote and sang the band's most well-known hit, 1974's "Magic," which reached #5 on the Pop chart.


Friday, November 10, 2017

"Bongo Bongo" by Steve Miller Band

Song#:  2218
Date:  02/16/1985
Debut:  87
Peak:  84
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Miller's thirteenth album, Italian X Rays, was not shaping up to be a hit like its platinum predecessor, Abracadabra. The LP's first single, "Shangri-La," stalled at #57 and even failed to make the Rock chart. This second single did even worse and could only hang on the Pop chart for a very minor few weeks. Without a solid single to promote the album, it barely charted and disappeared quickly. The results were quite devastating and Miller's career certainly took a significant blow. He would never be able to recapture the chart magic of his prior hits.

ReduxReview:  <looking down shaking head> I dunno what to say. Apparently Miller's label sent him off with money and a mission to dink around with new technology, which is fine, but effects and studio trickery are meaningless when there isn't a good song behind them. A chunk of the album consisted of throw away tunes and adding bleeps and bloops and sampled sounds did not make them any better. "Shangri-La" was bad enough and it didn't do well as a single, so why someone thought this song would do any better is beyond me. This sounds like something Oingo Boingo could fart out on demand. It's like someone got a new toy and is just dinkin' around with it while imbibing on some vice. I just don't get it. I can understand how some folks might find this fun, but it is not my thing at all.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  The album contains two songs co-written by Miller and Tim Davis. Davis was a co-founder of the Steve Miller Band and stayed on with them for five albums before leaving to work on other projects. This was before the band hit it big in 1973 with the #1 song "The Joker." Despite Davis' departure from the band, he and Miller maintained a friendship over the years. Later on, Davis began to suffer from the effects of diabetes. The disease took a toll on his body and career, yet he managed to collaborate on a couple of songs with Miller. These would represent their last collaborations as Davis would die a few years later in 1988.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

"New Attitude" by Patti LaBelle

Song#:  2217
Date:  02/16/1985
Debut:  95
Peak:  17
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  LaBelle had some difficulty finding her footing on the charts following her departure from the trio that bore her name, LaBelle. She hadn't scored a major hit at R&B since her solo career began in '77 and she remained off the Pop chart completely. Things began to turn around a bit in '83 when she scored her first solo R&B #1 with "If Only You Knew." The song finally got her on the Pop chart as well (#43). Two more R&B Top 10's followed before she was offered to record two songs for the soundtrack to the upcoming film Beverly Hills Cop. The movie was a big success and the soundtrack was catching on as well with two songs from it already going Top 10. This LaBelle contribution would be the third single issued from the album and it became a #1 Dance hit while reaching #3 at R&B. The tune also caught on at Pop and it became her first Top 40 solo hit getting to #17.

ReduxReview:  This is a good synthpop ditty, but when it really comes down to it, Miss Patti makes this record work. If anyone else had sung this song, it would have probably been a fun, but forgettable, hi-nrg track relegated to some club play and soon forgotten. Or perhaps someone like The Pointer Sisters might have gotten a minor hit out of it. However, LaBelle just crushed the vocals on it and truly made you want to get a new attitude. It's like she sold this song with every fiber of her being and folks certainly bought it. Over the years it has been used in commercials and TV shows and has become a bit of an empowerment anthem as well. LaBelle's new attitude certainly broke her through to a Pop audience and she became a certified solo star.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song would later be nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Song. Although it did not win, the writers of the tune, Sharon Robinson, Jon Gilutin, and Bunny Hull, did grab a Grammy for this contribution to the soundtrack, which won for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media. Although Robinson wrote songs for other artists, she mostly became known for her collaborations with Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen. Initially, she served as a backup singer on some of his tours, but then the pair began to write songs together including one of Cohen's more famous tracks, 1988's "Everybody Knows." Later in 2001, Robinson would co-write and produce Cohen's album Ten New Songs. The well-received album would reach #4 on the Canadian chart.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"Material Girl" by Madonna

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2216
Date:  02/09/1985
Debut:  43
Peak:  2
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance

Pop Bits:  The title track to Madonna's second album, Like a Virgin, established her as a star. The song spent six weeks at #1 and became a gold-selling record. If that song made her a star, then this follow-up tune put her on the road to becoming an 80s (and beyond) icon. The bouncy track nearly debuted within the Top 40 and proceeded to head towards the Top 10. It was denied the top spot, but its #2 showing gave Madonna her fourth Top 10 in a row. The video, in which Madonna mimics Marilyn Monroe's dance segment in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, became very popular and remained in heavy rotation on MTV for quite a while. The album would be blocked out of the #1 spot for a long time due to a couple of massive hits (the Purple Rain soundtrack and Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A), but it would finally reach the top for three weeks in February while this song was making its way to the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  This song certainly set off a lot of conversations. People had discussions about what Madonna meant by this song, what it meant for women, it's social impact/message, etc. It was as if Madonna had some big message loaded into the song and everyone had their interpretations. In reality, Madonna had hear the demo and thought the song was fun. According to her, she is not materialistic at all and even in the video, her character ends up ditching the glam in favor of regular clothes, a cool boyfriend, and a crummy car. But the image she projected in the video and the song's lyrics really got pinned to her like a scarlet letter. It may not have been her intent for this to happen, but it was hard to deny that combined with "Like a Virgin," the two songs certainly made Madonna the most talked about artist in music at the time. Of course I liked this song when it came out. It has that same awesome production style as "Virgin," courtesy of Nile Rodgers, and it was just pure juicy bubble pop. I actually don't think the song has aged that well, but it's still a fun listen.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Quad Shot!  1) This song was written by Peter Brown and Robert Rans. Brown had been a recording star himself a few years earlier. In 1977, his disco song "Do You Wanna Get Funky with Me" reached #3 at R&B, #18 Pop and #9 Dance. His follow-up song, 1978's "Dance with Me," did even better reaching #5 R&B, #8 Pop, and #4 Dance. He continued to have a few minor chart entries after the pair of hits, but by the end of '85 his own solo career came to an end. Oddly, his last charting song, 1985's "Zie Zie Won't Dance" (#20 Dance)," was nominated for an MTV Music Video Award for Best Art Direction. Also nominated in that category was Madonna's "Like a Virgin" video. They were both beat out by Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" video.  2) This song unexpectedly gave Madonna the nickname of the Material Girl. Many years later, Madonna expressed her regret at recording the song because of the moniker she gained from it.  3) Actor/singer Keith Carradine portrayed the director part in this song's video. Although more known for his numerous acting roles on TV, in film and on Broadway, Carradine had a very brief music career in the 70s. While starring in Robert Altman's Nashville, Carradine wrote and performed the song "I'm Easy" in the film. The song became popular and reached #17 in 1976. The song would earn him an Oscar for Best Original Song. A couple of albums would follow, but nothing came of them and he returned to acting full-time.  4) Madonna met her future husband Sean Penn on the set of the video for his song. Apparently, Penn's former assistant was working on the shoot and Penn dropped by to discuss a project with her and then asked to meet Madonna.

Monday, November 6, 2017

"Just Another Night" by Mick Jagger

Song#:  2215
Date:  02/09/1985
Debut:  45
Peak:  12
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  It took a while, but after more than twenty years fronting The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger decided it was time to do something on his own. He had it in mind when the band's new contract with CBS in 1983 gave clearance to each member to do other projects. He began to write tunes and by the end of '84 he had recorded his first solo album, She's the Boss. This first single was issued ahead of the album and it became a hit at Rock reaching #1 on that chart. With a high debut on the Pop chart, it seemed the song was destined to reach the Top 10, but it ended up stalling just short of that mark. The album also missed out on the Top 10 peaking at #13. Still, thanks to this hit the album sold well enough to go platinum. It wasn't a Stones-size multi-platinum hit, but it did prove that Jagger had the ability to work on his own without the band.

ReduxReview:  Jagger actually doesn't stray too far from his Stones roots with this one. With its opening guitar lick, jammin' rock beat, and experimental production, it nearly sounds like an outtake from Undercover. However, I always thought there was some odd lag time in the song. It starts out well, but about midway through there are sections that are almost like vamps - like he didn't know how to connect the sections of the song. It certainly could have used some tightening up. I liked the song, but I didn't hear anything here that made me interested in Jagger as a solo artist. I think others might have felt the same as both the single and album fell short of expectations.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song ended up being the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit. Reggae artist Patrick Alley had written and recorded a ballad titled "Just Another Night" in 1979. It was latter issued on record in 1983. Alley contended that Jagger had heard the song on the radio or had been introduced to the song via bassist Sly Dunbar, who had apparently played on both recordings, and that Jagger copped a portion of the song. Jagger denied the charges and took the case to court. In the end, a jury sided with Jagger. They seemed to think that besides the title, the songs had little in common and that Alley failed to prove that Jagger had heard or had access to his song.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

"One More Night" by Phil Collins

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2214
Date:  02/09/1985
Debut:  50
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Collins was certainly on a roll. He had released two multi-platinum albums, got his first solo #1 hit ("Against All Odds"), and was on the verge of winning his first Grammy. With his third album, No Jacket Required, set to go, this introductory single was released and it debuted on the chart just as his hit duet with Philip Bailey, "Easy Lover," was peaking at #2. The plaintive ballad quickly found fans and the single easily found its way to the #1 spot at both Pop and AC. Even Rock radio couldn't resist the tune and it topped out at #4. The album would reach its peak of popularity later in the late spring/early summer and would spend seven (non-consecutive) weeks atop the chart. It would be Collins' most successful album in the US selling over 12 million copies and winning the Grammy for Album of the Year.

ReduxReview:  I have to admit that this is not among my favorite Collins songs. The low-key ballad was certainly an easy listen, but it didn't really grab my attention. It sounds like a pretty tune that should be the closing track on an album, not become a lead-off single. I never understood it's appeal and why it was chosen as the first single. I was a fan of Collins, but I didn't rush out to buy this record. I waited and bought the album hoping for better tunes (which there was). The best part of it for me is the final sax solo (see below). That's about the only part of the song that does it for me. While I don't dislike the song, I don't love it either. Luckily for Collins many people loved it and it became his second #1 hit.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Collins would often find inspiration for songs when just improvising. In the case of this tune, Collins was tinkering with a drum machine and before long he began to sing a melody with the words "one more night." What he had seemed great for a chorus and he quickly turned the improv into an actual song.  2) Many folks are quick to recognize the sax solo that happens at the end of the song. That solo came courtesy of Don Myrick, who had been a member of Earth, Wind & Fire's horn section that became known as The Phenix Horns. Collins had used The Phenix Horns on his previous solo albums, so when he needed a sax solo for this song he turned to Myrick. Myrick was unfortunately killed in 1993.  Police officers went to Myrick's home with a search warrant that was part of a narcotics investigation. As the cops began to surround the house, an officer knocked on Myrick's front door. Myrick opened the door and was fatally shot when the officer thought that Myrick was holding a gun. He wasn't. He just had a lighter in his hand. Myrick's family later settled a wrongful death case with the Santa Monica police department for $400,000. Myrick was 53 years old.