Saturday, December 23, 2017

"Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody" by David Lee Roth

Song#:  2265
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  70
Peak:  12
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Roth's first solo outing, the EP Crazy from the Heat, consisted of four oddball cover tunes including its first single, the #3 remake of the Beach Boys' "California Girls." It was pushed along by a popular MTV video as was this next single. The retro medley did quite well, but just missed out on cracking the Pop Top 10. It was also able to reach the Rock chart getting to #25.  Although not issued as a single, a third track from the EP, "Easy Street," made an impression on the Rock chart reaching #14.

ReduxReview:  Had any other artist recorded and released this tune at the time, I think the reception would have been crickets. However, Roth and his personality and videos certainly did a lot in order to make this a hit. Again, like "California Girls," Roth sells it well but there is nothing wildly different here from Prima's original (see below). It's a fun track and I'm glad that a younger generation got to discover the medley. Other than that, there was no real reason for this to exist except to entertain Roth.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This medley is made up of two older pop standards. "Just a Gigolo" was an English adaptation of an German tune from the late 1920's. Among the first artists to record the English version of the song were Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong, both around 1931. "Ain't Got Nobody" was published in 1915 and was performed by many artist. However, both songs are associated with jazz/swing star Louis Prima who combined the two songs into a medley and recorded it in 1956. It quickly became one of Prima's signature songs. It is the Prima version that Roth covered for his EP. Although it seems odd for a rocker like Roth to cover this old standard, it was a natural fit for him because both he and Prima were larger-than-life entertainers. In addition to his famous hits, Prima also became famous to many generation of fans because of his voice work on the 1967 Disney film The Jungle Book. Prima played the orangutan King Louis and sang the tune "I Wan'na Be Like You."


Friday, December 22, 2017

"Fresh" by Kool & the Gang

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2264
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  73
Peak:  9
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The band's album Emergency got a good start thanks to its first single, "Misled," hitting #10 at Pop and #3 R&B. For the follow-up, this track was chosen. It would do even better getting to #9 at Pop, #1 R&B, #1 Dance, and #5 AC. It was the first time since early 1980 that the band was able to score two Top 10 hits from the same album. The news would only get better with their next single.

ReduxReview:  I have to admit that I hated this song when it came out. After the meaty and rockin' "Misled," this dance track disappointed me.  The chorus irritated me - "she's fresh...fresh!...exciting  <dong, dong, dong, dong, dong>..." I just wasn't having it. I'm much better about it these days. I still don't care for the song, but dang if it isn't memorable. Sometimes when I'm out to dinner with folks or grocery shopping with someone and a person mentions that something is fresh, I immediately imitate the chorus of this song (much to the dismay of the folks with me). It's like an automatic reaction. So, since I'm still doing that all these decades later, I guess the song can't be all that bad.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Prior to joining Kool & the Gang in 1979, lead singer James "J.T." Taylor had been writing songs and performing with other bands. When Kool & the Gang were assembling material for the Emergency album, Taylor reached back into his catalog and rediscovered a song he had written for one of his former bands. They decided to give an update to the song including writing some new lyrics. The band worked up the song and enlisted the help of songwriter Sandy Linzer to finish off the lyrics. Linzer had previously written hits for The Toys ("A Lover's Concerto," #2, 1965), The Four Seasons ("Let's Hang On," #3, 1965 and "Working My Way Back to You," #9, 1966), Odyssey ("Native New Yorker," #6 R&B, 1977), and many others over the decades includes tunes done by Whitney Houston and the Backstreet Boys.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

"Things Can Only Get Better" by Howard Jones

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2263
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  75
Peak:  5
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Jones' debut LP Human's Lib did quite well thanks to two Top 40 singles including the #27 "New Song." In the UK, this album had been released much earlier, so they were ready for new material from Jones. He ended up putting out a new single titled "Like to Get to Know You Well" and it reached #4 in the UK. It was followed by a remix EP that featured the song. The US missed out on all of this and had to wait for his new album, Dream Into Action, to be prepped. It was ready early in '85 and this track was chosen as the first single. It meandered its way up the Pop chart until it finally cracked the Top 10. It also crossed over to several other charts including Dance (#10),  Rock (#21), AC (#38) and even R&B (#54). The hit would help push his album to #10 and it would eventually go platinum.

ReduxReview:  I was already on-board with Jones so when this song came out I was all over it. It was funky synthpop that featured a chorus that consisted of nothing but "whoa-whoa's" and I loved it. There are very few hit songs where the entire chorus is just a syllable and/or word like this. Some songwriters consider it lazy to not write actual words, but I think they are snooty snoots. I mean, how fun is it just to go "whoa-whoa-whoa" to this song? It works great and it made the song memorable. The album was one of my faves from '85 and I still enjoy it.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Background vocals on this track and others from the album were performed by the female trio Afrodiziak. That group worked both in the studio and on tour with artists like Jones, Elvis Costello, Heaven 17, Sam Brown, Maxi Priest, Julia Fordham, and others. One member of Afrodiziak was Caron Wheeler who later joined the R&B group Soul II Soul. Wheeler sang the lead vocals on the band's two biggest singles, "Back to Life" (#4 Pop, #1 R&B) and "Keep on Movin'" (#11 Pop, #1 R&B). Both songs were platinum sellers in 1989.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Baby Come and Get It" by The Pointer Sisters

Song#:  2262
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  77
Peak:  44
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  The Pointers were on a roll with their previous four singles all hitting the Pop Top 10. With a total of five singles already released from their album Break Out, it seemed like the album had run its course. However, the label thought different and decided to eke out this sixth single. It did quite well at Dance getting to #8, but it stalled early at Pop and R&B (#24). The song closed out the trio's most successful album and peak commercial period.

ReduxReview:  I think this was just a stab by the record company to see what would happen. The trio had four Top 10's in a row and were a hot draw, so why not try another single. However, by this time the album was long in the tooth and it was going to take something much stronger than this song to do anything worthwhile. Therefore, it fizzled. I like the song, but it makes for a strong album track rather than a single. There was no reason for this single to be issued.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although she wasn't the first Pointer Sister to record a solo album, June Pointer stepped out on her own for a side solo project following the Sisters' 1982 LP So Excited!. Working with the trio's current producer, Richard Perry, June recorded a debut solo album titled Baby Sister. It was released in 1983 prior to the Sisters' massive hit album Break Out. The first single from June's album, "Ready for Some Action," got a few spins at R&B and it reached #28 on that chart. It wasn't enough to generate much attention and the album disappeared quickly. However, that may have been good as June was going to be extremely busy with her sisters following the success of Break Out.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"Will the Wolf Survive?" by Los Lobos

Song#:  2261
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  78
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock, Latin Rock

Pop Bits:  This East L.A. Chicano band formed in 1973 and they honed their skill until finally being able to release a self-financed/distributed debut album in 1978 titled Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles. Eventually, the band's sound evolved to a mix of traditional Latin and modern rock and that secured a deal with the Slash label in 1983, which resulted in an EP ...And a Time to Dance. Although it didn't sell too well, reviews were sparkling and it gave them the opportunity to record a full-length follow-up titled How Will the Wolf Survive? This first single kicked off the LP and it did fine at Rock getting to #26.  The attention the song got along with critical praise for the album allowed the single to crossover onto the Pop chart for a few weeks. The album would get to #47 and be included on several year-end best-of lists.

ReduxReview:  I totally missed the boat on this one when it came out. Due to reviews and their cult-like popularity, I was aware of the band but didn't pursue listening to them. That was a mistake on my part. Although I'm not sure I would have appreciated them as much at the time as I do now (as my ears and tastes are so much better). I boarded their bandwagon after I bought their experimental 1992 album Kiko. I just loved that album and over time I went back and discovered their other albums. How Will the Wolf Survive is certainly a gem in their catalog and this song is a standout. The jangly guitars are great along with the vocals of David Hildago. Although this band has remained popular over the years, they really should have been much bigger than they were.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Their EP ...And a Time to Dance resulted in the band's first Grammy nomination and win. They won in the Best Mexican-American Performance category for the track "Anselma." It would be the first of their three Grammy wins over the course of eleven nominations.  2) In 1986, country superstar Waylon Jennings recorded a version of this song for the album of the same name. It was issued as the LP's second single and it reached #5 on the Country chart.


Monday, December 18, 2017

"Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina & the Waves

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2260
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  86
Peak:  9
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  This English band came about when two members of a band called The Waves reconnected via another band called Mama's Cookin'. They were mainly a cover band but began to turn to originals done by member Kimberly Rew (formerly of The Waves). Rew and American singer (and original Mama's Cookin' lead vocalist) Katrina Leskanich shared lead vocal duties, but then Rew began writing songs for Leskanich to sing and soon she took over the lead on most all of the band's songs. By this time, they had went back to using The Waves as their name, but that eventually evolved into Katrina & the Waves. The band financed their own demo and shopped it around. A Canadian label, Attic, decided to pick up the band and a debut album was issued in Canada only in 1983. It proved to be popular enough to support a tour and a second LP the following year. Major labels then came calling and the band signed on with Capitol. For their self-titled major-label debut, the band remixed and did overdubs on track from their previous albums and then completely re-recorded two of their songs including this first single. The bouncy track gained in popularity slowly made its way into the Pop Top 10.  It also got to #19 Dance, #21 Rock, and #21 AC. The hit helped push the album to #25.

ReduxReview:  This song is just an utter blast. If someone doesn't like this song, then I doubt I'd like to hang out with them. If you wanna make people dance, smile, be dorky, and sing along, this is your go-to tune. The feeling of the music with the quick tempo and horns certainly fed in the lyrics and the band certainly made everyone feel like they were walking on sunshine. It's an incredibly happy song without being cloying. I think it's time to feel good - yeah!

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song proved to be a huge long-term financial success for the band. The track has been licensed for use in countless advertisement, TV shows, films, radio spots, etc., since it became a hit. Because of that, it has been reported that the song annually earned a significant amount of money for the band, who apparently had retained the publishing rights. In August of 2015, the rights to the song sold to BMG, along with some others written by Kimberly Rew, for $10 million. 2) This song also helped the band secure a Best New Artist Grammy nomination. They were aced out of the award by the exotic sounds of Sade.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

"The NeverEnding Story" by Limahl

Song#:  2259
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  87
Peak:  17
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Christopher Hamill, aka Limahl, achieved international success as the lead singer of Kajagoogoo, the one-hit wonder band that gave us the #5 hit "Too Shy." Following that success, differences in the band led to Hamill getting sacked. He opted for a solo career and signed on with EMI. He recorded his debut album, Don't Suppose, and the track "Only for Love" was issued as the first single. In the UK, the song was moderately successful getting to #16. A second single, "Too Much Trouble," didn't do all that well reaching #64. While all this was going on, Limahl was asked to provide vocals for this theme song to the fantasy film The NeverEnding Story. Prior to the film being released in the UK, the song was issued as a single. It did well reaching #4 in the UK and hitting #1 in several European countries. In the US it got into the Pop Top 20 while going to #6 at AC and #10 Dance. The song did not originally appear on Limahl's debut album, but after it became a hit the album would be reissued with the track (in place of another track). The album didn't sell all that well, but it gave Limahl the opportunity to record a follow-up in '86.

ReduxReview:  First, I have to say that I love The NeverEnding Story movie. I'm not all that into fantasy-style films, but that one gets to me every time. This closing theme song actually fit it quite well and I thought it was a good little tune. I didn't think it would be a sizable hit though. It was a little bubbly, cutsy, and nearly like a kid's song, which was appropriate for the film. I thought it's chances of success were slim, but lo-and-behold it actually got inside the Top 20. It's a sweet little tune that makes me think of the film whenever I hear it. (Side note - I don't necessarily consider this to be a one-hit wonder song as it peaked a bit too low and wasn't a major hit. However, some folks do and thanks to the sole hit from his former band Kajagoogoo, Limahl is one of a handful of artists who were one-hit wonders as part of a group and as a solo artist.)

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song had a female voice supported Limahl's lead vocals. The voice was supplied by singer Beth Andersen. Andersen was a session singer and provided lead vocals on a couple of songs for film soundtracks, including "Dance Dance Dance," which was featured in a key scene in the 1983 film Scarface. She would also co-write the song "Hold Me," which was recorded by Laura Branigan for her album of the same name. The track would be selected as the LP's second single, but it peaked at a very modest #82 in late '85. Limahl would also record a French version of "NeverEnding Story." For that recording, the female vocal was handled by Ann Calvert. Titled "L'Histoire Sans Fin," it would be the b-side to single of "NeverEnding" released in France. The single would reach #7.  2) There are a lot of songs where the ending uses a fade-out instead of coming to a distinct conclusion. Fade-outs are common, but this song is unusual because it also has a fade-in. This is not only uncommon in general, but for a single it is quite rare. Apparently the reason it was done is because the songwriters, Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey, wanted the song to fit the "never-ending" theme of the movie. Having the song fade-in and then fade-out makes it seem like the song never really ends.