Saturday, March 10, 2018

"Animal Instinct" by Commodores

Song#:  2338
Date:  05/25/1985
Debut:  69
Peak:  43
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Synthpop, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  The post-Lionel Richie Commodores scored their first major Pop hit with the #3 "Nightshift." The song reached #1 at R&B as did the associated album of the same name (#12 Pop). For a follow-up, this upbeat album opener was chosen. Although it got to #9 at Dance, tt ended up being a moderate entry at R&B (#22) while missing the Pop Top 40 mark. It would be the last time the band would crack the top half of the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  After their first post-Richie album, which the band produced, pretty much tanked, my guess is that their label got involved. Significant changes took place for Nightshift. They got assigned a producer (Dennis Lambert), pro songwriters were brought in (see below), and there was a definite change in sound as exemplified by this single. Their trademark R&B/funk with a slice of AC was nearly abandoned in favor of slick 80s synthpop. I'm sure someone at Motown thought it was a good idea to do this in order to make the band seem relevant and viable without Richie. It didn't really work. "Nightshift" was a hit, but it was a dedication song with a throwback sound. It was not a synthed-up, faceless pop tune like this one. These guys were super talented, but let's get real - Richie was the face/voice of the Commodores and his tunes kept the band in platinum territory. Minus him, they floundered with identity and direction. It's unfortunate, but rarely does a band survive and remain just as popular without its most well-known member and contributor.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Up until the time Lionel Richie left, the Commodores albums mainly contained songs written by the band with a sprinkle of ones by outside writers. Richie contributed quite a bit to the albums so after he left the remaining members were in charge of songwriting. They had a hand in all song on their first LP after Richie left, but for Nightshift it seemed either they or their label sought some outside help. Four of the nine tracks on the album were brought in for the album and some outside writers helped with the band's compositions. This included popular songwriters like Franne Gold, Dennis Lambert, Keith Stegall, Diane Warren, and Jeff Lorber. "Animal Instinct" was a composition by Martin Page, who was just beginning to have some solid success as a songwriter. He would later co-write the infamous #1 hit "We Built This City" for Starship and have a #14 hit of his own in 1994 called "The House of Stone and Light."


Friday, March 9, 2018

"Centerfield" by John Fogerty

Song#:  2337
Date:  05/25/1985
Debut:  71
Peak:  44
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  With a #1 album and two Pop Top 20 singles, Fogerty's return to recorded music after years of legal battles was a major success. While all of that would have been enough to cement Fogerty's solo legacy, it would be this third single that would outlast the album, its other singles, and eventually Fogerty himself. This title track song initially started out as the b-side to his #20 hit "Rock and Roll Girls," but after it started to receive spins at radio, the single turned into a double-sided hit with this song getting to #4 at Rock and #17 AC while stopping just shy of the Pop Top 40. If this was just a regular b-side entry, it might have had its day in the sun and then just faded to being an interesting entry in the artist's catalog. However, due to the subject of the song, it ended up with a life of its own that has continued through to today (and will continue for decades to come).

ReduxReview:  This is like Fogerty's eternal seasonal song except instead of Christmas the subject is baseball. Most any songwriter or publisher will tell you that having a hit holiday tune that gets a massive amount of airplay and usage during the season is absolute gold. It will be a consistent money maker for decades. I worked with an artist who didn't write their most well-known/used Xmas tune, but kept the publishing rights. He said it was one of the smartest things he did because the song generates a ton of money every holiday. So for Fogerty to do the same thing with a non-holiday song is pretty awesome. As for the song itself, it's just okay for me. I wouldn't go out of my way to hear it. However, if I attend a baseball game and hear it, in that context the song is great. You know exactly what's coming when you hear those hand claps and it hooks you in. As a radio single?  Meh.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Fogerty wrote this song based on his love of baseball and childhood memories of the game. At the time, Fogerty didn't know if this song would work or not. Sports themed songs and rock music didn't necessarily cross paths, so he was expecting a bit of backlash once the tune came out. To his surprise, not only did the song start to catch on at radio, it started to get airplay at a few ballparks. Over the years, the number of baseball teams and parks that have continually used the song has grown. It now ranks right alongside "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" as one of the most played and recognized songs used at baseball games of all levels. It has become such a standard for the sport that on the 25th anniversary of the song's release, it and Fogerty were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fogerty performed the song at the ceremonies that year (2010) and donated his baseball bat-shaped guitar. It was the first time a musician or even a song was inducted.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

"Everything I Need" by Men At Work

Song#:  2336
Date:  05/25/1985
Debut:  74
Peak:  47
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Men at Work's second album, Cargo, was another significant hit for the band getting to #3 and eventually going triple platinum. After the supporting tour wrapped up, they decided to take a little break before getting back in the studio. As sessions for the new album began, tensions within the band came to a head and when the dust settled, two members had left. The band's lead vocalist and main songwriter, Colin Hay, and the two other remaining members soldiered on to record the album Two Hearts. This first single was issued, but it just couldn't find an audience. The song got locked out of the Pop Top 40 while only getting to #28 Rock and #34 AC. It would end up being their final charting song in the US. Despite the lack of a hit single, the album managed to reach #16 and go gold. By 1986, the group officially disbanded with Hay heading out on a solo career.

ReduxReview:  I dunno what happened to Men at Work, but this lackluster album basically burst their bubble. Nearly everything that made the band interesting was missing on the LP. Hay's voice on this track is about the only thing that makes it sound like something from the band. It actually has a lovely verse melody, but the tune just kind of meanders along with hardly anything to hook a listener in. The best I can say about it is that it's pleasant. Unfortunately, a pleasant little tune isn't gonna light the Pop chart on fire.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  A couple of the songs on Two Hearts featured background vocals by Australian singer Kate Ceberano. In the early 80s, Ceberano was an in-demand session vocalist. By 1984, she had joined up with the funk band I'm Talking. That group gathered three Top 10 hits in Australia, but by 1987 they were done. Ceberano moved into solo work and in 1989 her first full solo album, Brave, would go triple platinum thanks to her #2 hit "Bedroom Eyes." It would also win her an ARIA (the US equivalent of a Grammy) for Best Female Artist. She would have more hits over the years and later be a judge on Australia's X-Factor music competition show. She would also appear on the Aussie version of Dancing with the Stars and win.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"Cannonball" by Supertramp

Song#:  2335
Date:  05/25/1985
Debut:  75
Peak:  28
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Back in '82, Supertramp got their last significant hit on the Pop chart, the #11 "It's Raining Again," which was from their last Top 10 album ...Famous Last Words. Following the tour for that album, lead singer/songwriter Roger Hodgson took off for a solo career. That left the band's other main singer/songwriter, Rick Davies, to carry the burden of those tasks on his own. Deliberately going against the more pop-oriented sound that Hodgson had brought to the group, Davies reached back to the band's more prog-rock roots and came up with Brother Where You Bound. This first single was issued out and it did quite well at Rock getting to #4. While that result wasn't unexpected, the real surprise came with the track made it to #9 on the Dance chart. Yet despite doing well at those formats, the song didn't fully ignite on the Pop chart and it fizzled just inside the Top 30. It would end up being Supertramp's final single to reach the chart. The album managed to get to #21, but failed to reach gold-level sales. The band would record one more LP in '87 before deciding to go into a self-imposed limbo period. It would be a decade before they would regroup and record a new album.

ReduxReview:  I was never a big fan of Supertramp, however I usually enjoyed hearing their main hits. Most of them were written or co-written by Hodgson, so I tended to like his offerings more than Davies' compositions. With Hodgson out of the picture for this album, I really wasn't all that interested in the band and hearing this song didn't change my mind. It grooves along fine on a couple of chords, but the tune never goes anywhere. The shorter single version was a bit better as nearly three minutes of instrumental passages were cut. Still, it didn't keep my attention and I have a tendency to skip it when listening to their hits disc.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:   Although this song was the band's first to reach the Dance chart, it wasn't their last. When Supertramp reunited for the 1997 album Free as a Bird , they modernized their sound a bit with elements of dance-pop and synthpop. The LP's first single, "I'm Beggin' You," showcased their sleeker sound and it ended up reaching #1 on the Dance chart. Unfortunately, that's all the tune could do. It would fail to reach any other chart and in turn the album came and went to little notice.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"People Are People" by Depeche Mode

Song#:  2334
Date:  05/25/1985
Debut:  79
Peak:  13
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Musicians Vince Clarke and Andy Fletcher began working together in the late 70s and after various iterations they officially became Depeche Mode in 1980 after the adding Martin Gore and Dave Gahan to the line up. Less than a year later, the band recorded a single for Mute Records ("Dreaming of Me") that was a moderate entry on the UK chart. By the fall of '81 they had released their debut LP, Speak and Spell, and got their first UK Top 10 with "Just Can't Get Enough." Clarke would leave the band (replaced by Alan Wilder) before they scored two more Top 10's over the course of two new albums. They were stars in the UK, but their fame in the US was limited to a small college/alt-rock audience. Wanting to break wider in the US, a special compilation of songs titled People Are People was issued in the US in '84 and the title track was pushed out as a single. Neither went anywhere. The song had already been a hit in the UK (#4) and was the first single from their upcoming album Some Great Reward. As that album geared up for US release, this song got pushed out again. The second time was the charm and the single steadily climbed into the Top 20. Both albums that included the song began to sell and over time People Are People would go gold while Some Great Reward would reach platinum.

ReduxReview:  I probably should have hooked into this tune back in the day, but for some reason I didn't connect with it. In fact, I should be a bigger fan of this band than I am. This song actually sounds better now than it did when I first heard it. I like the dense production, arrangement, and hooky chorus. Even parts of it sound like a throwback tune from the 60s, which is kinda cool. While it sounds of its time, I think the tune has aged pretty well.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Vince Clark stayed with Depeche Mode for one album before heading out to seek a new project. He found a partner in Alison Moyet and the pair formed the duo Yazoo (Yaz in the US). Yazoo would have two big hit albums in the UK along with three Top 10 hits. They didn't fare as well in the US with "Only You" doing the best at #67. Clarke would later have great success as a member of the duo Erasure. They would grab fourteen UK Top 10 hits along with six #1 albums. They had limited success in the US with their best effort being the 1988 platinum album The Innocents, which featured two Top 20 hits: "Chains of Love" (#12) and "A Little Respect" (#14).


Monday, March 5, 2018

"Not Enough Love in the World" by Don Henley

Song#:  2333
Date:  05/25/1985
Debut:  80
Peak:  34
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Henley's first two singles from his second solo album Building the Perfect Beast found a home in the Pop Top 10 with both of them hitting #1 at Rock. For his third single, Henley dialed back his contemporary rock sound and released this Eagle-ish soft rock tune. AC greeting the tune with open arms and sent it to #6 on that chart. Rock and Pop were a bit more reserved in their response and it peaked at #17 and #34, respectively. Yet the single kept sales of the album steady and over time it would end up selling over 3 million copies.

ReduxReview:  This is a nice, easygoing track that was a perfect fit for AC. Pop didn't warm up to the tune and that was slightly surprising. I wouldn't have thought it a Top 10'er, but I figured it would do better than it did. It's a well-written tune with a lovely melody and laid back blue-eyed soul feel. However, by this point in the 80s soft rock tunes like this didn't necessarily attract the kids and that was reflected in it's slight Top 40 peak. It's a cozy and comfortable tune. It's the musical equivalent of a Snuggie.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song, which was co-written by Henley, Danny Kortchmar, and Benmont Tench, received a cover treatment in 1995 by superstar entertainer Cher. Sandwiched between her late 80s/early 90s comeback hit streak and her 1998 mega-hit "Believe," Cher recorded the rock-blues oriented LP It's a Man's World and a remake of this Henley tune was one of the tracks. The album, which had a Southern blues-rock feel, was first issued in Europe in 1995. It was very successful in the UK reaching #10 and going gold. When the album was prepped for US release in '96, three tracks were axed from the disc and several other tracks were remixed to give them a more modern R&B feel. This song was issued as a single in both countries. It missed the US chart completely, but did get to #31 in the UK. The only song from the album to chart in the US was "One By One," which got to #52 Pop, #9 AC, and #7 Dance. The song was a Top 10 hit in the UK getting to #7. The album tanked in the US reaching #64 and not even getting close to gold-level sales. It was disappointing after three consecutive gold or platinum albums. However, things would turn around in a big way once "Believe" hit the airwaves in '98.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

"Forever" by Kenny Loggins

Song#:  2332
Date:  05/25/1985
Debut:  81
Peak:  40
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Loggins' first post-Footloose solo album, Vox Humana, was not doing all that well. Reaction to the title-track first single was tepid and that caused the song to falter just inside the Top 30 (#29). A bigger hit was needed to keep sales of the album going and this big ballad track was selected to do the job. The song did well at AC getting to #5, yet despite significant airplay that kept it alive on the chart for an unusual 22 weeks, it couldn't get a real foothold at Pop and the single finally tripped up once it hit the Top 40. However, that longevity coupled with its Top 10 AC showing helped the album reach gold-level sales.

ReduxReview:  Loggins wasn't necessarily known for his ballads. His big hits up to this point were either rockin' jams or mid-tempo soft rock affairs, so this seemed like a nice change of pace. With David Foster involved as a co-writer, this nearly sounded like something he would have come up with for Chicago. It's not a bad song. The big chorus sticks out, yet the verse is a bit boring and unremarkable. Loggins sounds good and tries to sell it, but in the end the only thing that I ever remember about this tune is "Forever!  blah-blah-blah...Forever!  blah-blah-blah." The rest of it just doesn't stay in my mind...well....forever.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Loggins originally wrote this song for use in the dramatic short film Access All Areas. The film starred Bruce Davison, Cliff De Young, and Helen Shaver and was directed by Jenny Sullivan. Sullivan had an "in" with Loggins at the time because she was married to Loggins' former music partner Jim Messina. The tune also got some soap opera time when it was heard in episodes of The Young and the Restless.