Saturday, February 3, 2018

"Satisfaction Guaranteed" by The Firm

Song#:  2305
Date:  05/04/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  73
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The British supergroup scored a #1 Rock track right out of the gate with "Radioactive," the first single from their self-titled debut album. The song did a little business at Pop getting to #28. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. Once again, it did well at Rock entering the Top 10 and peaking at #4. Pop listeners didn't bite this time and the single remained near the bottom quarter of the chart for a few weeks. The airplay popularity of the two songs helped to get the album to gold-level sales.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure why, but based on the title I wasn't expecting an after-hours rock ballad like this, so it threw me for a bit of a loop. In a good way though. I like the sultry chorus and the whole feel of the song. I could imagine driving down a dark road on a hot summer night with the windows down and this coming on the radio. In general, it's not really a great single nor is it all that memorable, but I dig its vibe.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  It's a bit rare for two artists to share the same name. Especially if they are from the same country. Many artists have had to change their name or alter them due to potential lawsuits from other same-name artists or entities, such as the UK's Yazoo having to become Yaz in the US due to issues with the US-based label Yazoo. However, in the 80s there existed two artists called The Firm. The first Firm was not really a band, but a novelty studio act headed up by songwriters John O'Connor and Grahame Lister. The pair wrote and recorded "Arthur Daley ('e's Alright)," which was a song based on a character from the British TV show Minder. It was a bit of a left-field hit when released as a single getting to #14 on the UK chart. A couple of years later, Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page formed their rock supergroup under the same name. Apparently, neither party cared about having the name in common or certain agreements were reached. Whatever it was, after the rock group disbanded in '86, O'Connor and Lister revived the Firm name when they recorded and released the novelty song "Star Trekkin'." The Star Trek parody and its associated claymation video were a sensation in the UK and the single ended up hitting #1 for two weeks in '87. While the tune got some attention in the US at the time, it didn't fully catch on and failed to chart. It would become more well-known when Dr. Demento featured it on his radio show and album compilation.


Friday, February 2, 2018

"Little Sheila" by Slade

Song#:  2304
Date:  05/04/1985
Debut:  92
Peak:  86
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After years of massive success in their UK homeland, Slade finally had broke through in the US when two of their songs made the Pop Top 40, including the #1 Rock/#20 Pop hit "Run Runaway." With an even bigger, worldwide to please, the band got back into the studio to record a new album. The first song from the upcoming Rogues Gallery LP, "All Join Hands," was issued in the UK late in '84. It did fine getting to #15. Two other lower charting singles would be released in the UK before the LP got over to the States. When it came time to issue a single in the US, this track was chosen over any of the three that were released in the UK. The song did acceptable at Rock getting to #13, but it just didn't catch on at Pop like their two previous singles and it ended up being a short blip on the chart. It would be the band's last song to reach any US chart. Their career also tumbled in the UK and Europe and after two more albums, the band called it quits.

ReduxReview:  Slade always had their own sound and when they matched it with unique and interesting material like "Run Runaway" or "My Oh My," the results were great and folks wanted more. However, on Rogues Gallery they kind of veered off course and tried too hard at making a record full of catchy, single-worthy tunes. They even pushed their sound into the 80s by adding a bunch of keyboards ala Van Halen. It all didn't quite work. To me, this just doesn't sound like Slade. In fact, it's fairly faceless. Any solid rock band could have recorded and released this. I think Slade is in here somewhere, but they are just buried by a wall of synths and commercial radio-ready rock writing. Despite all that, the tune is kinda catchy and worthy of a few spins.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The band's choice for a second single from the album in the UK would prove to be a bit of a mistake. They chose the track "7 Year Bitch" for release as they thought it had great potential to be a hit record. The band and their label didn't really think twice about issuing a single with "bitch" in the title/lyrics because other artists like Elton John (1974's "The Bitch Is Back") encountered few issues when they gave it a go. However, it seems they underestimated the tolerance level of radio stations at the time and the song ended up getting banned by many of them. The lack of airplay and promotional support pretty much killed the single and it ended up peaking at a low #60.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

"(Come On) Shout" by Alex Brown

Song#:  2303
Date:  05/04/1985
Debut:  93
Peak:  76
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Singer Alex (Alexandra) Brown gained a lot of experience as one of the Raelettes, Ray Charles' backing girl group. Brown held a position with the Raelettes from '66-'68 before attempting a solo career. She made one album in 1970 for the Sundi label, but it never received an official release. She got another chance at solo stardom when she got asked to record "Love Really Hurts Without You," which did get to #65 on the R&B chart. Yet, nothing came from it and she continued her career as an in-demand backing vocalist. Over the years, Brown supported major artists like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Natalie Cole, Dionne Warwick, and many others. Another opportunity for some solo recognition came when she got asked to sing this song written for the 1985 rom-com Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. The tune was issued out as a single, but it didn't really catch on. It got to #27 Dance, #66 R&B and #76 Pop. Those tepid results didn't open up any further solo opportunities and Brown returned to backing other artists.

ReduxReview:  This just sounds like an attempt to replicate the hits that the Pointer Sisters and Patti LaBelle had via the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. It didn't really work, but the song is not all that bad. Brown is an excellent vocalist and like the Pointers and LaBelle, she makes the tune sound better than it actually is. This is pure mid-80s dance-pop that is fun, yet disposable.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) The movie was obviously named after the Cyndi Lauper hit of the same name, but Lauper's hit was not included in the film or on the soundtrack. Apparently licensing issues came into play. It was probably a big disappointment not to have the Lauper song to use, but that didn't deter the filmmakers who just simply got someone else to record it. A trio of singers made up of Deborah Galli, Tami Holbrook, and Meredith Marshall did a version of the tune. The movie, which starred Sarah Jessica Parker, was a bit of a box office dud but in later years it got a lot of airplay on several TV channels like Lifetime and Comedy Central.  2) Brown's recording of "Love Really Hurts Without You" was a cover version of Billy Ocean's first significant hit. His original recording was issued in the UK where it reached #2 in 1976. As the song was shaping up to be a hit there, a producer who happened to hear Brown doing some backup vocal work recommended that she record the tune, which she did. Ocean's version got a US release and it ended up being a medium hit at Pop getting to #22, but it missed at R&B. During that single's run, Brown's version was released and it ended up on the R&B chart, yet missed at Pop.  3) Brown was also a songwriter and several artists have recorded her material. Songstress Anita Baker picked up a tune Brown co-wrote titled "Just Because." Baker included it on her third album, 1988's #1 Giving You the Best That I Got. The song was issued as the LP's second single and it got to #1 R&B and #14 Pop.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"Imagination" by Belouis Some

Song#:  2302
Date:  05/04/1985
Debut:  95
Peak:  88
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop, New Wave, Dance

Pop Bits:  British musician Neville Keighley honed his guitar and songwriting skills while still in school. By the early 80s he had started a band and adopted the stage name of Belouis Some. Breaking out on his own, Some signed with the UK label Parlophone in 1983 and began work on his debut album. Working with four producers, Some recorded his first effort titled Some People. The initial single, "Target Practice," was issued in advance of the album, but it failed to make an impression anywhere. As the album got set for release, this second single was issued. The song got a little bit of attention in the UK where it initially peaked at #50. In the US, the tune was a hit in the clubs and it ended up peaking at #4 on the Dance chart. It bled over to the Pop chart, but only for a few short weeks.

ReduxReview:  This swaggering tune is almost like ABC mixed with some Bryan Ferry and topped off with a dab of Billy Idol sneer. I remember seeing his name back in the day (not knowing if it was a person or a group), but I never heard his music. After listening to this, I think I may go back and see what else he has to offer as I like this tune. It has that sophisticated Brit-pop feel that I enjoy and I think the chorus is solid and memorable. It's a shame this didn't do better on the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Early in '86, this song got a second chance in the UK. Touring and other promotional appearances and deals put a bigger spotlight on Some and it led to this single being reissued in the UK. On its second go-around, the song did much better and made it to #17. It would end up being his biggest hit on home turf.  2) In the age of MTV, videos were nearly an essential promotional tool that helped many artists break through, however they needed to get airtime in order to make a difference. Belouis Some's video for this song was one that didn't necessarily help the artist. The video contained shots of full-frontal nudity and that, of course, didn't sit well with many TV stations. There was a minor swirl of controversy surrounding the video, but most likely since he was a new artist without a major hit, both the controversy and video were just kind of set aside.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"Angel" by Madonna

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2301
Date:  04/27/1985
Debut:  48
Peak:  5
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Madonna's Vision Quest soundtrack song "Crazy for You" was on the verge of hitting #1 when this third single from her Like a Virgin album was released. The tune was the first one written and pegged for the album and initially Madonna wanted it to be the lead single, but then a little tune called "Like a Virgin" came her way and this song got shuffled to third single status. Still, it did very well giving Madonna her fifth Top 5 hit in a row, which tied a record that had originally been set by Olivia Newton-John. The song would reach #1 at Dance while also getting to #5 AC and #71 R&B.

ReduxReview:  At the time this came out, it was a good single. It was hooky and seemed to fall directly in line with some of the material Madonna had done for her debut LP. It was solid dance-pop. Looking back now, I have to say that it's fairly pedestrian in comparison to many of Madonna's early hits (or even album tracks). Frankly, it's kind of forgettable. I mean, when is the last time you even thought about this song, let alone heard it? I think her label made a huge mistake in releasing this song over "Into the Groove" (see below). That song would have easily been her third #1 and it's a signature tune that has far outlasted lesser hits like this one.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Around this time, Madonna had recorded a song that was going to be used in the upcoming film Desperately Seeking Susan, in which Madonna had a co-starring role. She originally wrote "Into the Groove" for one of her former producers (Mark Kamins) to use, but she thought it was a fit for the film and recorded the song herself. Initially, the song was strong enough to be a single and with a hit movie, doubly so. However, with "Crazy for You" (another soundtrack song) already interrupting the flow of singles from Like a Virgin, there just wasn't a time slot to release the track. Therefore, the song got placed on the b-side to the 12" version of "Angel" and was pushed out to the clubs. The song ended up getting tons of airplay and in combination with "Angel," it hit #1 at Dance. It also got to #19 at R&B. However, without an official a-side single release, which was required for the Pop chart, it never made the chart despite its popularity. At the time the song wasn't available on the movie soundtrack or anywhere else, so folks were forced to buy the 12" to hear it. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing as the 12" combo of "Angel" and "Into the Groove" would end up being a gold seller. The song would be issued as a single elsewhere and it would reach #1 in many countries including the UK.


Monday, January 29, 2018

"Would I Lie to You?" by Eurythmics

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2300
Date:  04/27/1985
Debut:  62
Peak:  5
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock, R&B

Pop Bits:  Following a pit stop into soundtrack land with their work for the film 1984, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart went back to the studio to prepare their fifth album. This time around, the duo decided to cut back on their synth-driven electro-pop and record their new material with an actual band. The new album, titled Be Yourself Tonight, would be a more rock-oriented effort enhanced by shades of R&B. There was no better example of their new direction than this first revved up, horn-driven single. The song blasted its way to #2 on the Rock chart while hitting #5 at Dance and becoming their third Pop Top 10. Although the duo would have several more charting songs over the next few years, this one would be their last to reach the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  I remember hearing this for the first time back in the day. As a big Eurythmics fan, I was excited to hear new material. When the song opened up with a guitar lick and the bouncy bass line, I wasn't sure where it all was going. Then in came this massive rock/Stax-R&B sound punctuated by screaming horn lines and I was like..whaaaa??!! The backing vocals were the cat's ass and Annie Lennox strutted through this thing like she was gonna rip someone's gonads off. It was freakin' brilliant. Oh - and then a motorcycle revving up?  C'mon. I remember seeing them in concert (I think it was summer '86) and Annie Lennox came out in this leather cop-style outfit and just slayed this song. Although it does battle with a couple of other songs in their catalog, in general I'd have to say that this is my favorite Eurythmics recording. When you are playing this song, it has to be cranked to eleven...that's not a suggestion - it's a requirement. I wouldn't lie to you, honey.


Trivia:  Many vocalists encounter in their career painful nodules that develop on the vocal chords. It usually stems from the overuse of the vocal chords or trauma to the chords. Symptoms can vary from hoarseness to complete vocal loss. Treatment is either months of vocal rest or surgery to remove the nodules. Famous singers who have had the nodules include Adele, Freddie Mercury, Rod Stewart, Frank Sinatra, and famously Julie Andrews, who basically lost her singing voice after a botched surgery to remove nodules. Also part of the nodules club is Annie Lennox. Following the recording of Be Yourself Tonight, Lennox got the diagnosis of having nodules on her vocal chords. She opted not to have surgery. She used other non-evasive methods to shrink the nodules including not using her voice at all. Recovery would take months and therefore Eurythmics were not able to tour to support the new album. Luckily, the nodules disappeared and Lennox returned to touring and recording in '86.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

"Lucky in Love" by Mick Jagger

Song#:  2299
Date:  04/27/1985
Debut:  65
Peak:  38
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Jagger's debut solo album, She's the Boss, generated his first major hit when "Just Another Night" nearly got into the Top 10 (#12). The #1 Rock track would help spur the album to platinum sales. For a follow-up, this next song was selected. Jagger wrote it with frequent David Bowie collaborator/guitarist Carlos Alomar. Once again, Rock enjoyed the tune and it went to #5. Just like the previous single, it also reached #11 on the Dance chart. However, it wasn't quite a match at Pop and the single stalled just inside the Top 40. While not a great result, it wasn't bad either as the song kept sales of the album steady.

ReduxReview:  This song has a slick blues-rock groove and a good chorus, but overall it just wasn't as strong as it needed to be to really break through on the Pop chart. This was the case with most of the songs on the album. They were good, but not excellent or truly memorable. Thanks to "Just Another Night" and all the hype surrounding Jagger stepping out on his own, She's the Boss remains his best-selling solo disc. However, it would not be his best.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In addition to the first two singles doing well on the Rock chart, another song would also make an impression there. The album opener "Lonely at the Top" would get enough airplay to make it peak at #9 on the Rock chart. The song is credited as being written by Jagger and his Rolling Stones bandmate Keith Richards. The song was actually first recorded by the Stones in 1979. The song was a contender for their 1980 LP Emotional Rescue, but it did not make the cut. Jagger decided to revive the tune for his solo album. Four other songs recorded during the Emotional Rescue sessions that also failed to get used were later updated for their next album Tattoo You, including the #20 Pop/#2 Rock hit "Hang Fire."