Friday, February 23, 2018

"Little By Little" by Robert Plant

Song#:  2325
Date:  05/18/1985
Debut:  80
Peak:  36
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Plant got his first Top 10 Pop hit outside of Led Zeppelin when "Sea of Love," a cover song recorded with his side band/project The Honeydrippers, made it to #3. The associated album also did well, but instead of following it up with another Honeydrippers effort, Plant decided to get back to his own solo music. For his third album, Shaken 'n' Stirred, Plant chose to move away from some of the commercial rock elements of his previous albums (which netted him the #20 Pop hit "Big Log") and lean towards something more experimental. While the bulk of the album did take on that feel, Plant still made room for this radio-ready rock track that got issued as the LP's first single. It caught on a Rock and became his second to top that chart. The song was able to cross over to Pop where it peaked just inside the Top 40. However, besides the #18 Rock track "Sixes and Sevens," the LP didn't have anything further to offer. It seemed that Plant's less accessible approach couldn't fully attract the same audience that made his first two solo albums Top 10 platinum hits. The new effort could only get to #20 and go gold.

ReduxReview:  This chorus-less song tries to hook you in via its jittery keyboard lick and the repetitive title line. It's atmospheric, dark, and a solid fit for Rock radio with its extended instrumental sections. It's not really the stuff that pop dreams are made of, so I was a bit surprised when the single climbed into the Top 40. My guess is that his earlier track record along with the Honeydrippers hit helped the song get more airplay at Pop. It's an interesting tune, but not one that comes to mind quickly when thinking about Plant's catalog.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The drums on Plant's previous two solo albums were mainly provided by Phil Collins. For the new LP, Plant decided to bring in drummer Richie Hayward for the sessions. Hayward was a founding member of the successful rock band Little Feat. He would remain with that band from 1969 through to 2009 (he died in 2010). During that time, the band, headed up by Lowell George (who died in '79), would issue a series of highly regarded albums including what many considered their masterpiece, 1973's Dixie Chicken. While a handful of their albums made the chart, the band never had a Pop chart entry. Along the way, Hayward would co-write a few of the band's songs. He also got songwriting credit on some of the tracks on Plant's album as most of the tracks were written during the recording sessions, so band members who helped shape the tunes got songwriting credit.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

"Find a Way" by Amy Grant

Song#:  2324
Date:  05/18/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  29
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Contemporary Christian

Pop Bits:  Grant quickly became a Christian music star following the release of her self-titled debut album in 1977. She was only seventeen, but by the time she graduated high school she had three Top 10 hits to her name on the Contemporary Christian chart. More hits would follow with her next three studio albums all reaching #1 at CC. Her 1982 album Age to Age would become a major hit that began to attract a broader audience. It would be the first CC-based album to go gold and platinum and it earned Grant her first Grammy for Best Gospel Performance, Contemporary or Inspirational. That landmark album helped her next one, Straight Ahead, make an appearance on the Pop Album chart. With a growing fan base, Grant decided she wanted expand it even further by incorporating more mainstream pop into her CC music. The resulting album, Unguarded, was marketed to both Pop and Christian audiences and this first single, co-written by Grant, was sent to radio. The upbeat tune with slight Christian overtones got the job done by hitting the Pop Top 30, #7 AC, and spent 14 weeks at #1 on the CC songs chart. It was a major breakthrough for Grant that kept her star rising.

ReduxReview:  Before this song came out, I knew that Amy Grant was a big deal in the CC market. I even remember looking at the Age to Age album at the record store and contemplated buying it, but since I wasn't a religious person I didn't think I could relate to it and skipped it. Then this little burst of fresh air came over the airwaves and I changed my mind. Granted, the material on Unguarded is just shaded Christian and not as overt as some of Grant's earlier CC hits like "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" or "El Shaddai," but I enjoyed her songs and became a fan. I had hoped this song would do better at Pop as it's a good little jam steeped in 80s production, but the Top 30 showing certainly demonstrated that Grant had the goods to become a legit pop star.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Grant's decision to move in a more mainstream direction with Unguarded wasn't greeted well by some folks in the CC community. Not much was publicized about the album prior to its release, so her updated sound and vaguely Christian lyrics came as a surprise to many fans. While some called foul, others embraced the album and it became her fifth #1 at CC while becoming her second to go platinum. Although there have been a few Christian or religious-themed pop hits over the years, Grant's "Find a Way" has been considered the first CC song to break into the Pop Top 40. It would end up being a game changer that would later allow CC acts like Michael W. Smith, Stryper, DC Talk, and Jars of Clay to cross over onto the Pop chart.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"Go for Soda" by Kim Mitchell

Song#:  2323
Date:  05/18/1985
Debut:  87
Peak:  86
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Mitchell was already a well-known musician in his native Canada thanks to being a member of the popular hard rock band Max Webster. After the band split in '81, he decided to strike out on his own. A 1982 self-titled EP didn't feature any charting singles but it sold well and set him up for his 1984 full-length debut Akimbo Alogo. This track from the album caught on and was his first solo charting single in Canada. It reached #22. The song crossed the border and some solid airplay at Rock helped it reach #12 on that chart. The single did make the Pop chart and it stayed around for over two months, but it just couldn't make it out of the basement. It would be Mitchell's only single to reach the US Pop chart. His next LP, Shakin' Like a Human Being, would featured one more Rock charting track with "Patio Lanterns" getting to #36. In Canada, the news was far better. Mitchell would gather twenty-one chart singles, including three Top 10's, while issuing four best-selling LPs (two multi-platinum, one platinum, one gold). He would also win three Juno awards including one for Album of the Year for Shakin' Like a Human Being.

ReduxReview:  I remember seeing this title on the chart back in the day and thinking it was cool. Unfortunately, I never got to hear it! The track just didn't get airplay in my area and I never caught the video on MTV. I finally caught up to the song when it appeared on an 80s compilation I bought. Luckily, I wasn't disappointed when I heard it. This is a darn good slice of radio-ready rock. It's too bad it didn't get a better foothold on the Pop chart. It seemed catchy enough and had the makings of a Top 40 entry, so not sure why it didn't get further.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Mitchell had been a member of several band in the 60s before he founded Max Webster in 1973. According to Mitchell, the band wanted a name similar to Jethro Tull - a band seemingly named after a person, but the person was not a band member. Apparently the band's bassist had been in a group called Webster and the name began there. After a couple of years together, Max Webster got signed and issued a self-titled debut album in 1976. It proved to be popular in Canada and it eventually went gold, as did four more of their albums. Their peak of popularity came in 1979 when their album A Million Vacations peaked at #13 and went platinum thanks to three charting singles. The LP was also popular in the UK prompting a tour there. After numerous personnel changes, label issues, and declining popularity, Mitchell decided to quit the band in 1981.  2) Mitchell wrote a good chunk of songs for Max Webster and his solo albums with lyricist Pye Dubois. Due to his contributions, Dubois was often considered a fifth, non-performing member of Max Webster. The band often toured with Rush and members of the two bands became friends. Dubois even did some songwriting with Rush and helped supply lyrics to one of the band's best known tracks, 1981's "Tom Sawyer."


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"All You Zombies" by The Hooters

Song#:  2322
Date:  05/18/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  58
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Philly band was formed in 1980 by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian. They quickly became a successful club attraction on the East Coast and along the way issued a few indie singles that sold well. By 1983, they were ready to issue their first album titled Amore. It was a regional hit that later helped them secure a contract with Columbia Records. For their second album, Nervous Night, the band revamped a few songs from their debut LP and recorded some new tracks. One of the older tunes they updated was this first single. The tune found an audience at Rock and made it to #11. It then crossed over to the Pop chart where it peaked near the halfway point. It was a good start for the band and they would do even better with their next few singles.

ReduxReview:  While it wasn't a big hit at Pop, I remember this song getting played quite a bit. It stood out on radio thanks to its ska/reggae-influenced feel, bible references, and title, which happened to be same as a 1958 sci-fi short story by Robert Heilman that Bazilian had read as a kid. The song was an unusual choice for a single, but it did get the ball rolling for them. It took me a while to warm up to the tune, but the zombies reference and mysterious music made it an interesting and creepy little track. Oddly, it's become a bit of a Halloween staple these days even though there is nothing remotely in common between the song and the holiday outside of the zombie reference.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Hyman and Bazilian had a chance at major label success in the late 70s. They were in a band called Baby Grand that got signed to Arista. Baby Grand released two albums in '77 and '78, but nothing came from them and the band broke up. However, one connection from their debut album would be critical in helping to launch the Hooters into the mainstream. Late in '82, The Hooters decided to split following a grueling tour. A few months later, Rick Chertoff, who was a member of Baby Grand, called on Hyman and Bazilian to help with a project he was working on. Chertoff was producing a debut album for a new artist named Cyndi Lauper. Hyman and Bazilian jumped in and worked on the album with Lauper and Chertoff. Hyman even co-wrote "Time After Time" with Lauper and that song became a #1 Grammy-nominated hit. The success with Lauper prompted Hyman and Bazilian to reform The Hooters and by the summer of '84, the band was signed to Columbia. Chertoff would produced Nervous Night for the band.


Monday, February 19, 2018

"You're the Only Love" by Paul Hyde and the Payolas

Song#:  2321
Date:  05/18/1985
Debut:  95
Peak:  84
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Canadian new wave band The Payolas originally formed in the late 70s. The two main members/songwriters were Paul Hyde and Bob Rock. They signed on with A&M Records and after an initial 1980 EP, the band issued their full-length debut, In a Place Like This, the following year. It didn't do well, but their next two albums each featured a Top 10 Canadian hit including 1982's #4 "Eyes of a Stranger." The song would go on to win two Juno awards - one for Single of the Year and one to Hyde and Rock for Songwriters of the Year. However, despite their homeland success, they were having problems trying to break into the US market. To help that along, the label brought in hit producer David Foster to helm the band's fourth LP, Here's the World for Ya. The new commercial sound didn't sit well with a lot of the band's fans and the album was not the hit that the label expected. Although this first single did finally get them on the US charts (#84 Pop/#37 Rock), the overall results were not good and the album quickly disappeared. As a result, the band was dropped from A&M and that was the end of The Payolas. However, the two main members would have a little success later in the decade as the duo Rock & Hyde.

ReduxReview:  This is some pretty slick pop. I think Foster did to this band what he did with The Tubes, which was push them into corporate rock territory. The Tubes ended up with a couple of chart hits out of the deal, but The Payolas weren't so lucky. I kind of like this tune and I'm surprised it didn't catch on more and cross over to AC. It's not a fantastic song, but it is a lovely, well-done tune. However, it is in sharp contrast to what the band had been producing before getting Foster-ized, so I can understand why their fan base was turned off by it.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The band was initially know as The Payolas or also as Payola$. They got the name from the illegal activity of payola, which is where someone (usually a record company) would quietly pay money to a DJ, station, show, or other entity to play specific songs in their lineup. One of the most famous cases of payola happened in the early 60s when it was discovered that popular DJ/TV personality Alan Freed had accepted money from record companies to play certain records. The scandal ended his career. Payola issues have happened since then and it's a sore subject with DJs and radio stations. Because of that, the band The Payolas though that perhaps their name, which referred to the practice, caused US radio stations to not play their records. Therefore, when trying to break into the States with their new David Foster-produced disc, they decided to alter their name to Paul Hyde and the Payolas. This gave stations a chance to just say "Paul Hyde" if they want to and ignore any reference to payola. Whether it helped or not isn't really clear, but they did finally get a song on the US chart.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

"Sussudio" by Phil Collins

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2320
Date:  05/11/1985
Debut:  39
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Collins' third solo LP, No Jacket Required, would easily reach the top of the chart thanks to the #1 single "One More Night." The album stayed at #1 for four weeks before yielding the spot to the USA for Africa charity LP. Four weeks later, it would return to #1 thanks in part to this second single that became Collins' third gold-selling chart topper. It was a multi-format hit that got to #4 Dance, #10 Rock, and #30 AC. It was also Collins' biggest hit at R&B getting to #8. In his UK homeland, this was actually the first single released from the album. It didn't do quite as well there only getting to #12.

ReduxReview:  Honestly, this is an insipid little ditty. But damn if it ain't catchy! The thing is that I never want to hear this song. Yet if I end up hearing it, I just can't help getting into the Prince-ish groove and horn fills. It's just stupid fun. Collins has obviously done far better work than this, but I don't think he set out to create a musical masterpiece here. Sometimes fun is just fun. It's okay if you don't like it, but you also don't have to be a dick and wish yourself bodily harm if you hear it (see below). I'd call that su-sustuppid.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  So what's with the song title? Apparently, Collins wanted to write a dance tune and while playing around with a drum machine and some chords he began improvising and blurted out "sus-sussudio." He used it for the time being expecting to change it to an actual word later on. Yet when he tried to find a good replacement, he just couldn't. He then decided to keep the word as-is. The problem is that it had no meaning and the song kind of required that it referred to something. Since the lyrics were mainly about a schoolboy's crush on a girl, he decided that Sussudio stood for the name of the girl. The catchy song and it's odd title/name certainly divided listeners, and especially critics. While some though it was a terrific, funk-lite jam, others despised it. Words like "vapid" and "inane" were tossed around to describe the song. Even years later, one critic wrote that the song "makes me just want to go deaf - it's awful." Although reviled by a lot of people, there were plenty more that loved the tune and turned it into a #1 gold record.