Saturday, March 17, 2018

"Let Him Go" by Animotion

Song#:  2345
Date:  06/01/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  39
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This band grabbed a hit right out of the gate with their debut single "Obsession" (#6). The instantly catchy tune would help send their self-title album to #28. They tried to keep the momentum up with this next single. While it wouldn't get near the Top 10, it did well enough to sneak just inside the Top 40. Unlike "Obsession," which was written by Holly Knight and Michael Des Barres, this track was written by band member Bill Wadhams. Wadhams wrote or co-wrote seven of the nine songs that appeared on their debut album.

ReduxReview:  While "Obsession" was pure synthpop candy, this one has a bit more of a rock edge. This one sounds like the product of a band rather than a bank of synths, even though it is certainly dressed in them. The production is excellent and the song is good, but it just doesn't have that extra-catchy ooph that "Obsession" had.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Animotion's keyboardist at the time of this album was Paul Antonelli. He had been a member since the band's inception in 1983 and would stay through to 1985. Around the same time, he started getting work as a composer of music for films and TV shows. Beginning in 1984, Antonelli began working as a musical director/supervisor on the hit daytime soap General Hospital. This led to several other gigs on various other soaps. He was consistently employed over the years and as of the time of this posting was still working on the shows Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless. He has been nominated for twelve Daytime Emmy awards over the years winning two.


Friday, March 16, 2018

"You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive

Song#:  2344
Date:  06/01/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  11
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  After a few iterations, this UK band led by Pete Burns finally came to life in 1980. They honed their chops in clubs while releasing some indie singles along the way. After one of their songs reached the UK indie chart, Epic Records came calling and the band signed up with them. They recorded their debut LP, Sophisticated Boom Boom, and one of the songs from it, a remake of KC & the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way (I Like It)," got to #22. Three other singles reached the lower rungs of the chart and that was enough for Epic to keep them on for another album. Their second effort, Youthquake, would be their breakthrough with this first single zooming up to #1 early in '85. The song finally found its way Stateside in the summer and it became a #4 Dance hit. The tune crossed over to Pop and it wound up peaking just outside the Top 10 in the dreaded #11 spot. The success of the single helped the album reach gold-level sales.

ReduxReview:  I remember when this song hit the airwaves. Its charging, in-your-face synths and urgent beat sounded like everyone involved had too much caffeine and speed. Add in Burns' deep monotone-ish vocals and the results were like nothing else on the radio. I bought into it and got the single. It was a fun track, but also one that could easily wear on you after repeated listens. It's a Hi-NRG song that actually takes a lot of NRG to listen to it. I nearly feel hyperactive after hearing it. The SAW sound (see below) would become a bit tiresome over the decade, but when it was in full bloom like this song, it was hard to resist.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This was the first US chart entry for the British songwriting/production team of Stock Aitken Waterman. Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman formed when Waterman asked the other two to join his production company. Their main focus was Hi-NRG dance music and they began producing and/or writing tracks for various artists in 1984. Their first significant hit in the UK was Divine's "You Think You're a Man," which got to #16. Right after that, they wrote and produced the #4 hit "Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)" for singer Hazell Dean. This Dead or Alive track, which they produced but did not write, would be their first project to reach #1 in the UK. Many more hits would follow including tracks by Bananarama, Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue, and Donna Summer. The SAW sound would be a staple throughout the 80s.  2) The chorus of this song was famously used/sampled in the 2009 #1 "Right Round" by Flo Rida, which featured additional vocals by Kesha. It was Flo Rida's second song reach #1 on the Pop chart and it stayed in that top spot for six weeks.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

"Let's Go Out Tonight" by Nile Rodgers

Song#:  2343
Date:  06/01/1985
Debut:  92
Peak:  88
Weeks:  3
Genre:  R&B, Dance, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Rodgers conquered the charts with his band Chic, but he was also making a name for himself as an in-demand producer. He scored giant hits with artists like Diana Ross, David Bowie, and Madonna while also being a contributing member to Robert Plant's side project, The Honeydrippers. Along the way, he also attempted a solo career. Following the breakup of Chic, Rodgers recorded his first solo LP, Adventures in the Land of the Good Groove. The album received some good notices, but it tanked and disappeared quickly. Two years later he decided to give it another go. Rodgers signed with Warner Bros. and recorded B-Movie Matinee. This track was issued as the first single and it got inside the Top 40 at both R&B (#35) and Dance (#38). The minor support there didn't bode well for a Pop crossover bid and indeed it was barely a blip on the chart for a few short weeks. It would be his only solo single to reach any chart. Rodgers would then mainly stay in the songwriting/production world and would later win a Grammy for his work on Daft Punk's 2013 Album of the Year winner Random Access Memories.

ReduxReview:  This track with its staccato keyboards stutters along just fine, but anyone looking for the tasty dance-pop that Rodgers had been serving out via artists like Bowie or Madonna was not gonna get it here. While the tune is interesting with its guitar licks and Japanese rap, there is not much that truly reels in a listener. Rodgers' voice is capable, but indistinguishable. Overall, the tune is not very memorable. Rodgers is an excellent producer who has written or co-written some great songs along the way and while I admire that he wanted to break out on his own and experiment, he just wasn't one that was destined for a solo career.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The female singing vocals on this track were performed by Alfa Anderson. Anderson began her career as a background vocalist for Chic, but then became a co-lead singer in 1978 and remained with the band until they dissolved in '83. She then worked as a background vocalist for many artists and as a member of Next Step contributed to "Get on Up," a 2016 #8 Dance hit by the DJ duo Aristofreeks.  2) This single also features some rap-like sections that are in Japanese. These were performed by Shizuko Orishige. It seems that Orishige would later gain work as an engineer and helped out on albums by Stevie Winwood, Karen Kamon, and Little Steven (Steven Van Zandt).


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Call Me" by Go West

Song#:  2342
Date:  06/01/1985
Debut:  94
Peak:  54
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  This UK duo's first charting single, "We Close Our Eyes," just barely missed out on becoming their first Top 40 entry. It peaked at the dreaded #41 spot. However, it was a hit at Dance getting to #5. For a follow-up, this next track from their self-titled debut album was chosen. It spent nearly the same amount of weeks on the chart as their first single, but couldn't quite find its way into the top half of the Pop chart. It also didn't do as well at Dance only getting to #25. The track would be another good sized hit for them in their UK homeland getting to #12.

ReduxReview:  These guys knew how to write some slick pop and their tracks were always well-produced (by Gary Stevenson on their first two albums). Anyone who digs their first two singles should really check out their debut album. It's a bit of an underrated 80s gem that should have been a bigger hit Stateside (it got to #8 in the UK, #60 US). This one may not be a catchy or vibrant as "We Close Our Eyes," but it is still a quality track.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This is an original song written by the Go West duo of Peter Cox and Richard Drummie. It shouldn't be confused with any other song titled "Call Me," several of which have reached the Pop chart. Perhaps the most famous "Call Me" is the 1980 hit by Blondie. Next in line would probably be the 60s pop standard of the same name first recorded by Petula Clark in 1965. Singer Chris Montez made a hit out of it in 1966 (#22 Pop/#2 AC). That song has been covered by many artists, but only Montez was able to get it on the Pop chart. Other "Call Me's" (all different songs) to reach the Pop chart have come from Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, Dennis DeYoung, Skyy, Tweet, Le Click, and even a rap one by Too Short & Lil' Kim. Blondie's "Call Me" remains the only song by that name to reach the Top 10.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Getcha Back" by The Beach Boys

Song#:  2341
Date:  05/25/1985
Debut:  51
Peak:  26
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The last time the Beach Boys recorded a regular studio album was in 1980 with Keepin' the Summer Alive, which featured the #83 Pop chart entry "Goin' On." Even then, the band was in shambles and their future uncertain. They hadn't had a Top 10 hit since 1976 and it seemed like they were on the verge of quitting. But an oddball single in '81 called "The Beach Boys Medley" unexpectedly reached #12 and suddenly there was reignited interest in the group. A hits package was quickly assembled and an old track "Come Go with Me" was pushed out as a single and got to #18. It was prime time for a comeback, but even as they toured and enjoyed the resurgence, there was inner struggles within the band. Then tragically Dennis Wilson drowned late in '83. His death seemed to spur the band to seriously get back into action and late in '84 they began work on a new album. The self-titled LP was completed the following year and this first single was issued out. AC latched on to it immediately and the song rose to #2, which was their first Top 10 on that chart. The throwback tune wasn't a big hit at Pop, but it did become their first newly recorded song to reach the Top 30 since 1976.

ReduxReview:  The famous Beach Boys harmonies are present in this track and their trademark song style is there too. The updated production is nice and beefy with Levine providing a near-Phil Spector-ish wall of sound. All the elements were there, so why am I not a fan of the track? I have a feeling it has to do with the song itself. It's rather bland and doesn't go anywhere. The chorus is lacking punch and it doesn't have a sing-along factor. It sounds like an old second-tier Beach Boys song that was left on the cutting room floor and revived via 80s technology. It's like going to an old classic restaurant and one of the menu items sounds so good, but when you get the meal it's just okay and a bit disappointing.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  For the new album, the band decided to get with the times and modernize their sound. For a producer, they hired on Steve Levine, who had been having great success working with Culture Club. Levine brought in synths, drum machines, and other modern equipment and the band was receptive to the new technology. Levine also brought along some help from Culture Club. Members Boy George and Roy Hay contributed a song titled "Passing Friend" with Hay playing most of the instruments on the track. A couple of other stars pitched in as well. Ringo Starr played on a track while Stevie Wonder contributed a song and played several instruments on it as well.


Monday, March 12, 2018

"Sentimental Street" by Night Ranger

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2340
Date:  05/25/1985
Debut:  55
Peak:  8
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Night Ranger scored their biggest Pop hit with "Sister Christian," the second single from their second album Midnight Madness. That 80s classic would also be their best effort at Rock getting to #2. The hit helped the album reached #15 and go platinum. After the supporting tour for the LP, they had the difficult task of recording a follow-up. They exited the studio with 7 Wishes and this first single was issued to introduce the album. The big ballad would take off and hit #3 at Rock while becoming their second song to reach the Pop Top 10. It would be their last single to reach the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  "Sister Christian" worked out well, so why not toss out another big ballad? That strategy doesn't always work, but luckily it did for Night Ranger. While not as career defining as "Sister," this was another solid pop/rock effort from the band and it actually made me go out and buy the album. This two-album stretch was their best and most consistent period. They cranked out some tasty radio-friendly confections that were mostly written or co-written by bassist and co-lead singer Jack Blades.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The lyrics to the main hook of this song are "Sentimental Street in the Avenues." Many folks, including me, have always wondered what that meant. Apparently, band member/songwriter Jack Blades got the phrase after driving around San Francisco. The city's west-central area is made up of two districts, Richmond and Sunset, which are divided by Golden Gate Park. The full area is known as the Avenues. This is because most of the north/south streets are numbered avenues, like 2nd Ave, 3rd Ave., etc. The east/west cross streets were then named after prominent historical people and ran in alphabetical order. When Blades was driving in the Avenues area, the thought about a person walking around contemplating life and the street they happened to be on was called Sentimental and that street was in the Avenues. Therefore, the person is "out on Sentimental Street in the Avenues." Now, there isn't a Sentimental Street there (the "S" street there is Santiago), but perhaps now there should be!


Sunday, March 11, 2018

"Just As I Am" by Air Supply

Song#:  2339
Date:  05/25/1985
Debut:  63
Peak:  19
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The early 80s were solid for Air Supply with the band earning four platinum albums (three studio, one hits package) and eight Top 10 hits (seven of them consecutive). By spring of '85, it had been three years since their last studio album and nearly two years since their last hit. Pop music tastes had been changing since the band's heyday and their soft rock sound was certainly on the outs. After some personnel changes, the band returned to recording and issued a self-titled LP that featured this first single. Big ballads had become their bread-n-butter and this song stayed in their comfort zone. AC was always a supporter of the band and continued to do so sending the tune to #3. However, it was a mixed reception at Pop with the song peaking just inside the Top 20. It was a bit of a disappointment since the lead singles from their previous four albums all went Top 10. Still, it was enough to get the album to gold-level sales, which itself was a drop from their usual platinum status. The single would end up being Air Supply's last to get into the Pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  Although this tune is firmly in Air Supply territory, it does have a more rock-oriented sound than some of their previous hits. That's probably due in part to the song's co-writer, Dick Wagner, and producer Bob Ezrin, both of whom worked with Alice Cooper and other rock artists. That little rock edge sounded good on the band, but for some folks it wasn't enough shake the easy listening stigma the band had gotten saddled with over the past few years (even though many of those folks were closet fans). I liked the song and got the album, which had a few bright spots. I think its Top 20 peak was appropriate. It's a good tune, but runs just shy of making a list of their best tracks.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The bulk of the songs on the album were written or co-written by Graham Russell, who along with Russell Hitchcock had co-lead the band since they first formed in 1975. However, they did include a couple of cover tunes including one that surprised many folks. The band recorded a version of "Sandy," a song originally written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen. Yes, Air Supply did a Springsteen cover! The tune, which was originally titled "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," was included on Springsteen's second album, 1973's The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. No singles were released from that album, but two years later as his third album Born to Run was getting set to be his breakthrough, this song got significant airplay on Rock radio. It never charted, but it became one of his most popular and recognizable songs from his early days. Air Supply was not the first artist to cover the song on record. The Hollies did a version for their 1975 album Another Night. On the album, the full title of the song was listed. However, when issued as a single, it was simply titled "Sandy." The song was a blip on the Pop chart getting to #85. Air Supply's version would not be issued as a single.