Saturday, February 10, 2018

"Square Rooms" by Al Corley

Song#:  2312
Date:  05/11/1985
Debut:  96
Peak:  80
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Europop, Synthpop, Dance

Pop Bits:  Some folks may remember the name Al Corley from the 80s nighttime soap Dynasty (see below). For the show's first two season, Corley played the role of Steven Carrington. The show was a hit, yet Corley was not happy with the character and decided to leave the series. Corley was also a musician, so after leaving Dynasty he decided to try and parlay his new fame into a recording career. He signed on with Mercury records and hooked up with German producer Harold Faltermeyer, who had some recent success with Laura Branigan (this was prior to his Beverly Hills Cop hit "Axel F"). Corley wrote or co-wrote all the songs for his debut album Square Rooms. The title track would first be issued as the lead single in Europe late in '84. It would be a Top 10 hit in a few countries including France where it reached #1. It got to the US in the spring of '84, but the reception was different. The track couldn't get out of the basement of the Pop chart. It did slightly better at Dance getting to #26. With that tepid reception, the album then disappeared quickly. A follow-up single, "Cold Dresses," would be another hit in France (#5), but that would be it for Corley. He'd record two more albums for Mercury before calling it a day on his music career.

ReduxReview:  I can certainly hear why this was a hit in Europe. It definitely has that Europop/new wave feel and Corley's voice fits in with that nearly sounding like Roland Orzabal from Tears for Fears. It's a catchy tune, but nothing that was going to spur the interest of a US pop audience. I'm not surprised it stalled early.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Back in the early 80s, openly gay characters barely existed on TV, let alone in a leading role. Billy Crystal's Jodie Dallas on the 1977 comedy series Soap was one of the most famous regular characters on a show to be gay. Some say he was the first, but actually actor Vincent Schiavelli played a recurring character that was gay, Peter Panama, on the 1972 sitcom The Corner Bar. Also before Crystal, the 1975 Norman Lear sitcom Hot l Baltimore featured a gay couple. These were all comedies and sometimes that made introducing tricky subjects a bit easier because the situations and/or characters provided laughter. It was tougher for dramas and it wouldn't be until Dynasty in 1981 that a regular gay character would be on a primetime dramatic show. Corley took on the role of Steve Carrington and portrayed him for two seasons. But Corley was unhappy with the character's direction and left the show. He was then replaced by Jack Coleman, who finished out the run of the show. To explain Steve Carrington's physical change when Coleman took over the role, the writers had Carrington burned in an oil rig fire and attributed the change in looks to plastic surgery. While the Carrington character was groundbreaking, he wasn't necessarily a well-adjusted gay man. Feeling pressure from protesters and organizations, the writers transitioned Carrington through various relationships, including with women (he even gets married at one point), and portrayed him at times as closeted and confused. Regardless, it was a bold step at the time and the character and the actors who portrayed him are part of gay history.


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