Saturday, January 27, 2018

"Oo-Ee-Diddley-Bop" by Peter Wolf

Song#:  2298
Date:  04/27/1985
Debut:  81
Peak:  61
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Wolf's solo debut album Lights Out would do pretty well thanks to a pair of Top 40 hits including the #12 Pop/#6 Rock title track. The results seemed to indicate that a third single might generate interest and this track was chosen for release. The quirky tune didn't really get off the ground and it only managed a few short weeks on the Pop chart. Rock radio basically ignored the tune. However, another song from the album, "Crazy," garnered some airplay at Rock and made it to #26. Despite some action on that chart, the track was not issued as a single.

ReduxReview:  This is definitely a fun song from the album, but in no way should it have been a single. It's just too quirky and has lengthy jam sections that just don't play well on pop radio. I think the Motown-ish "Baby Please Don't Let Me Go" would have been a better contender. Even the Rock chart entry "Crazy" might have done a bit better. I'm just guessing that the catchy title, playful groove, and the little spoken/rap section made the label think the kooky song might catch on. It didn't.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  For the album, Wolf decided to do a cover version of an old standard called "Gloomy Sunday." The song was composed by Hungarian pianist Rezső Seress in 1933. The original lyrics had to do with facing the misery following war, but a poet named Laszlo Javor wrote lyrics to the tune that were about a person wanting to commit suicide after the death of their lover. Those lyrics made the song more popular and eventually the tune became known as the "Hungarian Suicide Song." In 1936, English lyrics were written by Sam Lewis, which stayed with the suicide theme. The song was first recorded by Hal Kemp, but was later made famous by the legendary Billie Holiday. The song got a lot of attention in the late 30s due to reports that people had committed suicide while listening to the tune and that radio stations banned the song due to the incidents. None of the claims panned out as fact and the song's history is now the stuff of urban legends. However, there is one true fact about the song. It's original writer, Seress, did commit suicide in 1968. Initially he survived jumping from a window, but then finished the job by strangling himself with a wire while recuperating in the hospital from the fall.


Friday, January 26, 2018

"Jammin'" by Teena Marie

Song#:  2297
Date:  04/27/1985
Debut:  83
Peak:  81
Weeks:  3
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Marie scored her biggest hit at Pop with "Lovergirl," the lead-off track from her sixth album Starchild. The #4 hit would also get to #9 R&B and #6 Dance. For a follow-up, this track was chosen. Unfortunately, it just didn't have the same appeal as the first single and it faltered at #45 at R&B while stalling near the bottom of the Pop chart. Still, "Lovergirl" was so strong of a crossover hit that it would help make the album Marie's second to go gold.

ReduxReview:  I understand why they chose this song for a follow-up. It had a similar feel and groove as "Lovergirl," however, it just wasn't as catchy as that hit and there was no way it was going to do as well. Even though it probably should have done a bit better on each chart, I don't think this should have been the next single. There were a couple of other contenders that were different from "Lovergirl" that might have caught on, yet even those were not going to capture the same audience as her signature hit. The album is very good, but it just didn't contain a second strong track for single contention.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  One song on the Starchild album, "We've Got to Stop (Meeting Like This)," was a duet between Marie and soul singer/musician Ronnie McNeir. McNeir signed his first record deal in 1966 when he was seventeen. Nothing much came from a single he recorded and it would take until 1972 for him to record a full album with RCA. For over a decade, McNeir would record for several labels and grab three low charting R&B singles. Although his solo career never fully took flight, his work with other artists kept him quite busy and he even grabbed a Grammy nomination in 1981 as part of the gospel band, the Rance Allen Group. He would become a member of The Four Tops later in 2005. Although McNeir was born in Alabama, he was raised in Pontiac, Michigan, and in 2017, the street McNeir grew up on was renamed for him.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Through the Fire" by Chaka Khan

Song#:  2296
Date:  04/27/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  60
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  Khan's second single from her I Feel for You LP, "This Is My Night," was a bit of a bust on the Pop chart peaking at #60. Luckily, it did better at R&B (#11) and Dance (#1). For the third single, this David Foster-produced track was chosen. It did fine at R&B (#15) and AC (#16), but once again it failed to do much on the Pop chart and stalled at the same #60 spot that her previous single reached. However, even though the two songs stopped at #60, this one spent a remarkable nineteen weeks on the Pop chart. That longevity is usually reserved for major #1 hits or Top 10'ers, not songs that peaked in the bottom half of the chart. So while it may not have been a big Pop hit in terms of peak position, it certainly sold some copies and was an airplay star for a lengthy period of time.

ReduxReview:  When it comes down to it, this is just a standard AC tune that has pedigree (David Foster, Cynthia Weil, and Tom Keane) and a memorable chorus. A number of artists could have easily breezed through this tune and it would have been fine. However, Khan's vocal work, especially at the end, gives a little extra oomph to the ballad and her performance makes the song more compelling than it actually is. The tune hung around the Pop chart for a long time waiting for a larger audience to catch on, but they never did. It probably should have done a bit better, especially at AC.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) For the US, this song would be the third and final single released from the album. However, in certain European countries, a fourth single would be issued. The track "Eye to Eye" would get released and it did fairly well in a few countries including the UK where it peaked at #16.  2) Later in '85, a song Khan recorded for the movie Krush Groove would get issued as a single. "(Krush Groove) Can't Stop the Street" served as the theme song to the film and it saw a little action at R&B peaking at #18. Unfortunately, it failed to reach the Pop chart. The song along with the film doing well at the box office helped to push the soundtrack album to #14 at R&B (#79 Pop). The film was based around the formation of Def Jam Records and its co-founder Russell Simmons. Several top music artists appeared in the film including Sheila E., New Edition, Run-D.M.C., and Kurtis Blow.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"I Was Born to Love You" by Freddie Mercury

Song#:  2295
Date:  04/27/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  76
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Mercury's first solo single under his name, "Love Kills," was recorded for the restored version of the film Metropolis and its associated soundtrack. It was issued as a single and reached #10 in the UK, but it was basically ignored in the US and peaked at a low #69. While Mercury was recording that tune, he was also working on his first solo album. The LP, title Mr. Bad Guy, would have less focus on the rock sound he developed with his band Queen and lean more towards synth and dance-pop. This first single got things started and once again it did well in the UK getting to #11. Also once again, the song just couldn't catch on in the US and it spent a short month on the Pop chart. It would end up being Mercury's last single to reach the US chart. Mercury would remain in Queen, but would still record solo material along the way until his death in 1991. Prior to his death, Mercury would score two more UK Top 10's including the operatic title track to his second solo disc Barcelona. That song was a duet with Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé and it would return to the UK Top 10 (peaking at #2) the year after Mercury's death when it was used during the Olympic Games held in Barcelona in 1992.

ReduxReview:  Mercury was never one to phone it in on vocals and he indeed sounds full of spirit here. The chorus has a nice sing-a-long feel and there are touches of Mercury's near-vaudevillian style of writing. However, the letdown here is the arrangement. I get that he wanted to continue his experiment with synthpop without the band, but I think what he did with this song made it sound a bit cheezy. When Queen reworked it later in '96 (see below), the results were much better. Either way, it's not a great single, but when done in a palatable way it's a nice track.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) A track from Mercury's Mr. Bad Guy album, "Living on My Own," would later become a posthumous #1 in the UK. Originally, the song was issued in 1985 as the album's third single, but it stalled at #50. In 1993, a remix of the song known as the "No More Brothers Remix" was issued as a single. The remix took off and ended up spending two weeks at #1 in the UK. The remix was not issued in territories like the US.  2) Following Mercury's death, the remaining members of Queen decided to make one last album that featured their late lead singer. The project, titled Made in Heaven, would feature the band re-recording songs and projects that Mercury had done during his career. The tracks would consist of Mercury's vocals with the band revising or adding their parts. This single would be one selected for a redo with the band turning it into a more Queen-like rock song. It was released as a single, but only in Japan. It peaked at a low #45 when initially issued there, but later in 2004 a reissue of the tune would make it to #1 in Japan.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"Mathematics" by Melissa Manchester

Song#:  2294
Date:  04/27/1985
Debut:  86
Peak:  74
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  After being with Arista Records for nearly a decade, Manchester parted ways with the label following her low-performing eleventh album Emergency. She signed up with MCA for her next album and came up Mathematics. Working with producers like George Duke and newcomer Robbie Nevil, Manchester continued down the same path she had trod at Arista and recorded a set of synth/dance-pop tunes. That sound wasn't working for her at Arista and unfortunately the results were even worse with the new MCA album. This first title-track single was barely a blip on the Pop chart and that caused the album to come-n-go quickly. The song would be Manchester's last to reach the Pop chart. With those results, her deal with RCA came to an abrupt end and for the first time since 1973 she was without a label. Over the next decade she would push out three albums for different labels, but nothing really clicked. She truly returned to form in 2004 with When I Look Down That Road. The album found her back in singer/songwriter mode with Manchester writing or co-writing every song on the LP. It was a critical success that put her back in the music spotlight.

ReduxReview:  This one I don't understand. From what I've read, Manchester was not happy with Arista, Clive Davis, and the dance-pop diva direction of her career. When she got free of Arista, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to return to her singer/songwriter sound. But what happened? She signed on with MCA and issued her most synthpop album ever. Why? It boggles my mind. What a waste of talent. This song is fairly typical of the material on the album. It's slightly better than some of the other tracks because Manchester co-wrote it and there are signed of her writing hidden in here, yet it's still so calculated (pardon the pun) and cold, which is not like the real Manchester. The album didn't lack in quality songwriters either with Martin Page, Robbie Nevil, Diane Warren, and even George Michael all lending a hand. But none of the material was above average and any artist could have recorded them. I've ranted all through this era of Manchester's career, but if you go back and listen to her pre-80s albums, you will understand why. In fact, her 2004 LP mentioned above was excellent. I did a review of that LP for that praised her return. However, for this point in her career, yeesh.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  For the Mathematics album, Manchester co-wrote a song with Tom Snow titled "Just One Lifetime." The piano ballad was the only non-synth based track on the album and was more in-line with Manchester's singer/songwriter origins. It was released as the LP's third single, but it failed to reach any chart. However, there was one person that the song attracted - Barbra Streisand. In 1998, Streisand was set to marry actor James Brolin and Manchester thought the song would be a fit for the wedding and sent a new demo to Streisand, who ended up liking the song. However, Streisand being Streisand, she wanted to make changes. Apparently the chorus was fine, but she wasn't happy with the verses and asked Manchester and Snow to revise them. They did and Streisand performed the song at her wedding. The following year the recorded studio version of the tune was included on her album A Love Like Ours.


Monday, January 22, 2018

"Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)" by Alan Parsons Project

Song#:  2293
Date:  04/27/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  71
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The Project's eighth studio album, Vulture Culture, didn't get off to a great start with the first single, "Let's Talk About Me," stalling in the bottom half of the Pop chart (#56). It was the first time since 1978 that a single from one of their albums didn't crack the Top 40. Hoping to turn things around, they chose this smoother, more AC-friendly track as the next single. While the song returned them to the AC chart (#11), it just didn't click at Pop and it stalled after short few weeks. With neither single making a mark, the album fell flat and peaked at #46 - the lowest result of all their studio albums to this point. It also became their first to miss the gold sales mark since their 1976 debut LP. A third single attempt was jettisoned and the Project would have to retreat, regroup, and record their next album.

ReduxReview:  The sound of this track falls more in line with other singles from the Project rather than the pseudo-Supertramp-ish "Let's Talk About Me." It's a really good song, but after the first single tanked, this one got ignored. At least it picked up some airplay at AC. I still think the track "Sooner or Later" should have been issued as the lead-off single from the LP. Had that one done well, prospects for this song might have been better. Overall, Vulture Culture was not one of APP's strongest efforts, but the a-side of that album is stacked with some solid pop/rock tunes like this one.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although Eric Woolfson's voice would drive the Project's biggest hits, there was also a stable of singers that Woolfson and co-collaborator Alan Parsons would use to head up various songs on their albums. While David Paton sang lead on "Let's Talk About Me," this song was sung by Chris Rainbow. Rainbow had done lead vocal work on the Project's previous four albums with one song he did for 1980's Turn of a Friendly Card, "Snake Eyes," becoming a minor charting single that got to #67, which was just a hair better than the results of this song. Rainbow (real name Christopher Harley) had a brief solo career in the UK issuing three albums between 1975 and 1979. Two of his singles would be minor entries on the UK chart. In addition to working with APP, Rainbow provided vocals or backing vocals for several other artists including Culture Club. He passed away in 2015 after battling Parkinson's Disease.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Heaven" by Bryan Adams

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2292
Date:  04/20/1985
Debut:  52
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Adams got his first Pop Top 10 with "Run to You," the lead single from his fourth album Reckless. A follow-up single, "Somebody," just missed that same mark stalled at #11. However, this third single would turn things around in a big way. The ballad was a perfect fit for Pop and it became Adams' first #1 on that chart. It became his second single to chart at AC getting to #12. Rock radio was already familiar with the song (see below) and so this time around it stalled at #27. The hit would keep sales of the album brisk and the LP would remain in the Top 10 during the run of this song. An upcoming fourth single would finally push the album to #1 for a couple of weeks in August.

ReduxReview:  This song was not really among my favorites on the Reckless album, but I do think it is one of Adams' most effective ballads. It checks all the right boxes and sounds great. I just envision an arena of concert goers waiving lighters in the air when I hear this tune. I never really connected with it, but I do recognize that it is a well-done piece of work from Adams and Vallance.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Back in '83, Adams and his collaborator Jim Vallance were given the task to write a song for the upcoming romance film A Night in Heaven. Adams was on tour with Journey at the time and he and Vallance found inspiration via the #12 Journey hit "Faithfully" for their new tune "Heaven." They recorded the song (with Journey's Steve Smith on drums) and it found its way into the film and onto the associated soundtrack. The film ended up being a box office bomb and that certainly didn't help the soundtrack. At the time, Adams' contribution was not issued as a single, but it did get quite a bit of airplay at Rock radio where it peaked at #9. Later on when Adams was gathering songs for his Reckless album, the idea of putting the song on the LP was bantered about due to its earlier success at Rock. Initially Adams didn't think the tune fit in with the more rock-oriented feel of the album and elected to keep it off the LP. However, he ended up changing his mind at the last minute and included the song in the final track listing. That turned out to be a good idea as the song would become Adams' first #1 hit.  2) In 2001, this song was remade into a dance version by DJ Sammy (from Spain) and Yanou (a German DJ) with vocals by Dutch singer Do. It was highly successful reaching #1 in the UK and #8 in the US while hitting the Top 10 in several other countries. It would be the only chart hit in the US for any of the three performers, therefore they became one-hit wonders.