Tuesday, July 3, 2018

"We Built This City" by Starship

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2453
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  73
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Jefferson Starship's 1984 album Nuclear Furniture was the band's eighth studio album to at least reach gold level sales. However, since 1979's Freedom at Point Zero, the band had been leaning in a more commercial, radio friendly direction and that wasn't sitting well with Paul Kantner, the last original member of Jefferson Airplane/Starship to still be in the band. He finally decided to part ways but if he was going, so was the band's name and he filed a lawsuit to prevent the others from using the Jefferson moniker. A settlement was reached and in the end everyone agreed to not use "Jefferson" in any band name. With other members of Jefferson Starship ready to move on, including Grace Slick, they decided to simply use Starship for the band name and issued out their first album Knee Deep in the Hoopla. This first single was pushed out ahead of the album and it took off for the #1 spot at Rock. The song took its time scaling the Pop chart, but it also made it to the apex. It also got to #37 AC and #37 Dance. It was the first #1 hit for the band in any of its iterations. It also earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  Here it is - the ever infamous love-it-or-loathe-it 80s...ummm...classic? The song about corporations and commercialism ruining rock 'n' roll and contributing to its demise was pretty much in itself a totally commercial and corporate record. The band wanted hits and they reached out to other writers looking for something that could be one and they wound up with this tune. The song has taken a lot of flack over the years, but what it comes down to is if you accept it for what it is and like it, or if you think its a bunch of clap trap by a no longer relevant band. I happen to like it. From the near-a capella opening to the big 80s synth production and DJ voice over, I found it to be hooky and a lot of fun. Is it a great song? Nope. It has nonsensical lines like "Marconi plays the mamba" and the song's sentiment is kind of corny, but for me it's hard not to nostalgically jam along to it when I hear the tune.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Ever since this song became a hit, many folks have derided it. Perhaps the most notorious diss of the song came in 2004 when Blender magazine issued out a list of the worst songs ever recorded and this one was ranked #1. The distinction rankled fans of the song along with a couple of the ol' Starship members. But that wouldn't be it. In 2011, Rolling Stone readers voted this the worst song of the 80s by a wide margin. And then in 2016, GQ magazine named it the worst song of all time. Despite all these negative accolades, the song lives on and has made its writers and publishers a butt load of money.  2) When this song hit #1, co-lead singer Grace Slick was 47-years-old. That made her the oldest female artist to reach #1 on the Pop chart. She would hold that record until 1999 when a spry 52-year-old Cher hit #1 with "Believe.  3) Lyrics for this song came from famous Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin. At the time Taupin was trying to work with other artists besides John and his lyrics for this song ended up in the lap of songwriter Martin Page. Page then supplied the music and created a demo. Apparently, the original version was darker in tone and not as hooky. When Starship's producers Dennis Lambert and Peter Wolf picked up the tune, they decided to make some changes. They made the song a bit more upbeat with a more repetitive chorus and added the DJ section, which was performed by Les Garland, a former radio programming director who was a bigwig at MTV at the time. Due to their additions, Lambert and Wolf ended up with writing credits on the song.


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