Saturday, April 7, 2018

"Shout" by Tears for Fears

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2366
Date:  06/15/1985
Debut:  66
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This UK duo hit it big in the US when their second album, Songs from the Big Chair, produced the #1 single "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." For a follow-up, this meditative anthem was pushed out. It would be another major success for them getting to #1 at Pop and Dance while reaching #6 Rock and #56 R&B. It would also become their first gold selling single thanks in part to the song's associated video, which was all over MTV at the time. The song would also send the album to the #1 spot later in July. It would remain in the top position for five non-consecutive weeks. Eventually it would sell over five million copies.

ReduxReview:  This song starts off with a big, arena ready chorus and never lets up from there. It was instantly memorable and like nothing else on the radio. The arrangement was terrific as was the atmospheric production courtesy of producer Chris Hughes. Nothing from their first album prepared anyone for this in-your-face blast and it rightfully became an 80s classic.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The album's title was inspired by the 1976 television film Sybil, which starred Sally Field and Joanne Woodward. Based on the 1973 book of the same name, the film centers on Sybil Dorsett and her multiple personality disorder. Sybil took comfort in sitting in her psychiatrist's "big chair" during their sessions. The book would be a best-seller while the film would go on to win four Emmy awards including one for Field. In addition to the film inspiring the album's title, it would also inspire a song. Tears for Fears would record "The Big Chair," which was an instrumental track that featured snippets of dialog from the Sybil film. While the song would not be included on the album, it would end up being the b-side to "Shout." It would also later appear on deluxe reissues of the album.


Friday, April 6, 2018

"Stir It Up" by Patti LaBelle

Song#:  2365
Date:  06/15/1985
Debut:  81
Peak:  41
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Dance-Pop, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  LaBelle finally got her first significant solo Pop hit with the #17 "New Attitude" (#3 R&B), which was a song she recorded for the soundtrack to the film Beverly Hills Cop. In addition to that one, LaBelle was lucky enough to get pegged to sing a second song for the film and after Harold Faltermeyer's "Axel F" made it to #3, this second LaBelle track was issued out as the LP's fifth single. It nearly became her second Top 40 entry, but just missed that mark when it peaked at the dreaded #41 position. However, it did well at R&B getting to #5 while going to #18 at Dance. The two songs significantly broadened LaBelle's fan base and a new record deal with MCA would bring about her most successful single and album.

ReduxReview:  While this song was not as robust or catchy as "New Attitude," it was another solid effort from LaBelle. This should have been another Top 20 entry for her, but I think by this point the popularity of the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack was in decline and since a lot of folks had been playing these tracks for so long, there just wasn't a lot of interest generated for this single. Still, it was a worthy addition to LaBelle's hits catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) LaBelle would revisit this song years later for another soundtrack. For Disney's 2005 animated film Chicken Little, LaBelle remade this song in duet form with UK soul singer Joss Stone. 2) This song served as the theme song to the 1985 TV sitcom Stir Crazy, a show based on the hit 1980 Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor film. The show was not a hit and was cancelled after nine episodes. It starred Larry Riley and Joe Guzaldo. Riley had better luck later when he scored a regular role on the night time soap Knots Landing. He was on the show from 1988 until his unexpected death in 1992. Guzaldo continued to work on various TV shows and films over the years.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

"People Get Ready" by Jeff Beck & Rod Stewart

Song#:  2364
Date:  06/15/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  48
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Beck has long been one of the most influential guitarists of all time. Beginning with his breakthrough stint in The Yardbirds through to his successful Grammy-winning solo career, Beck's work has greatly impacted rock music. Rod Stewart is one of the biggest selling artists of all time and he actually got his big break back in 1968 when Beck chose him to participate in the recording of Beck's first solo album, Truth. A second LP, Beck-Ola, credited to the Jeff Beck Group would appear the next year. Both would become gold albums. Despite the successes, Beck's group fell apart. Beck would form a new version of his band and continue forward while Stewart signed up for a solo career and a stint in the band Faces. A decade and a half later, Beck began to prep his fourth proper solo album, Flash. He brought on board producer Nile Rodgers to help give the new collection a more commercial feel. In addition to Beck unusually supplying lead vocals on a couple of tracks, he invited his old band mate Stewart to do the honors on this track, which became the album's first single. The reunited pairing was catnip for Rock and the song scooted up to #5. It was also able to cross over to the Pop chart, but couldn't do much once it got inside the Top 50.

ReduxReview:  While I think both artists give it their best shot here, I think it is just too drawn out and a bit messy. It's just not a song that calls for a bunch of solo guitar work in addition to the vocals. It just doesn't make sense to me. It would have been better to just let Stewart sing the song and then add a solid guitar solo. Or, just let Beck's guitar handle the melody and not do a vocal. Stewart's voice and Beck's guitar seem to be straining over each other by the end and it's just too much, especially on a wonderful classic like this one.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally performed by The Impressions in 1965. Written by Impressions member Curtis Mayfield, the song reached #3 R&B and #14 Pop. While the classic tune would be covered by many artists, only the Beck/Stewart collaboration and a 2010 take by the cast of Glee (#41) have been the only ones to reach the Pop chart.  2) A track on the Flash album titled "Escape" ended up winning Beck his first Grammy.  He won for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. It would be the first of seven Grammys Beck would win over the years.  3) This was one of only three charting songs by Beck. His first was a collaboration with Donovan on the 1969 single "Goo Goo Barabajagal (Love Is Hot)," which got to #36. His third charting single came in 2007 when a live version of "Up to the Mountain" featuring Kelly Clarkson done for the Idol Cares program made it to #56. Despite the lack of charting singles, Beck has earned five gold and two platinum albums for his solo and Jeff Beck Group work.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

"Burning Flame" by Vitamin Z

Song#:  2363
Date:  06/15/1985
Debut:  87
Peak:  73
Weeks:  7
Genre: Synthpop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This group mainly consisted of two Sheffield, England, musicians, Geoff Barradale and Nick Lockwood. The pair wrote songs and gigged around for a while before capturing the attention of Mercury Records. They recorded their debut LP, Rites of Passage, and this first single was issued out in the UK earlier in '84. Despite not really catching fire (#80), they got the chance to see if they could break in the US. Geffen took the opportunity to sign them and the single and album got pushed out in the States in the summer of '85. The results were nearly the same as at home with the song stalling low on the chart. Oddly, the mid-tempo tune got some airplay in clubs and ended up hitting #27 on the Dance chart. It would be their only charting song in the US. A follow-up album would see the light of day four years later, but nothing came from it. Barradale and Lockwood would then part ways. Barradale would later move into management. He would later become the manager of the hugely successful UK group Arctic Monkeys. That band would have five consecutive #1 albums in the UK between 2006 and 2013.

ReduxReview:  This song definitely has a Euro feel that's not too far away from other UK bands like Tears for Fears or The Fixx. It's a song that doesn't necessarily hook you on the first listen, but after a few plays it settles in your ears just fine. The band had a nice sound and their production was pretty tasty. I just don't think they had a strong enough radio-friendly song to break them through on the charts. They had potential, but in the end it just didn't happen for them.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  For anyone who is a fan of the Alan Parsons Project, the voice on this track may sound familiar. In 1987, Barradale would work with the Project on their final album, Gaudi. Barradale would handle the lead vocal duties on the track "Standing on Higher Ground." That song would be issued as a single and reach #3 on the Rock chart. It did not make it to the Pop chart. A video for the song was made, but Barradale did not appear in it.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"Frankie" by Sister Sledge

Song#:  2362
Date:  06/15/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  75
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The last time Sister Sledge was on the Pop chart was back in '82 when they got to #23 with their remake of "My Guy." After their next LP failed to produce any significant hits, the girls had to regroup and plot a new course. To do this they brought back producer Nile Rodgers, who had worked with the group during their "We Are Family" heydays. He would produce their eighth album When the Boys Meet the Girls. This first single was issued out and it didn't do all that well stopping at #32 R&B while not making it out of the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. However, AC took to the song a bit more and it peaked at #15 there. It would be the group's final song to reach the Pop chart. The tepid results of the single didn't lead to a lot of album sales and it disappeared rather quickly. When all was said and done, Sister Sledge was dropped by Atlantic and their recording career came to a halt. It would take more than a decade before they were able to release a new album.

ReduxReview:  This old-fashioned tune was a good fit for AC, but it wasn't anything that was going to light up the Pop chart. Besides not having a memorable chorus, the tune was a bit too cutsey for pop radio. It just wasn't going to compete against the hook-driven rock and synthpop that was loading up the chart. I'm not all that shocked it did well in the UK (see below). The Brits often liked quirky stuff like this and there had been a few retro-ish songs over the past few years that did well on the UK chart. I find it to be a pleasant song and kind of fun, but even after several listens, the song doesn't stay in my ears.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  While this tune floundered in the US, it did find an audience across the pond in the UK. The song was embraced and it eventually spent four weeks at #1. It also reached the Top 10's of a few other European countries. Both the single and album would reach gold-level sales in the UK. Unfortunately, despite their success in the UK, the group wasn't given the opportunity to record a follow-up album.


Monday, April 2, 2018

"Willie and the Hand Jive" by George Thorogood & the Destroyers

Song#:  2361
Date:  06/15/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  63
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Blues-Rock

Pop Bits:  This Delaware blues musician along with his band The Destroyers gained some notoriety when a self-titled debut album appeared on the fledgling Rounder Records label in 1977. His next LP, Move It on Over, would be even more successful thanks to tracks like "Who Do You Love" getting attention on rock radio stations. The album would be a gold-seller that would eventually lead to an opening slot on a Rolling Stones tour and an appearance on Saturday Night Live. Thorogood left Rounder for EMI and recorded his next LP, 1982's Bad to the Bone. The title track, written by Thorogood, would only get to #26 at Rock, but over time its popularity grew and it became a signature tune that would be used in movies, TV shows, and ads. His next release, Maverick, would be another commercial success reaching #32 and going gold. It's popularity was mainly due to three Top 30 Rock tracks including this song, which crossed over to the Pop chart for a couple of months. It would be Thorogood's only song to reach the Pop chart. He would have continued success over the years gathering four Top 10 Rock tracks along with six gold and two platinum albums.

ReduxReview:  So when Thorogood's name came up on the chart, I fully expected the song to be "Bad to the Bone." I mean, how many times was that song played on rock radio and the video run on MTV? It seemed like a ton. However, that song took a long time to get off the ground, so it was never going to be a chart contender. But that's the song folks remember from Thorogood. They don't think of this remake, which became his only Pop chart song. Thorogood does his thing with this Diddley-beat tune and it's just fine. The thing about Thorogood is that he does what he does well, but he doesn't color outside the lines. You pretty much know what you are gonna get when you hear one of his tracks. If you like what he does, then it works out.  If you don't, then you just ain't gonna be a fan of his music.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Music was not Thorogood's only career choice. Baseball was a big passion and Thorogood did well enough to play for a minor league team. Apparently in the 70s he played second base on a team in Delaware's Roberto Clemente League. A 2011 article on Thorogood mentioned that he even receive a Rookie of the Year honor. A different article mentioned that he played for the Delaware Destroyers (the team does exist), which is odd because when Thorogood initially founded his band, he named them the Delaware Destroyers before later shortening it to just the Destroyers. There is little to confirm that Thorogood had an actual baseball career, but by most accounts he did play some kind of semi-pro ball in Delaware before making it big in music.  2) This is a remake of a song originally written and recorded by Johnny Otis in 1958. Otis' single was a significant hit reaching #9 Pop and #5 R&B. Many other artists have covered the tune, but besides Thorogood, the only other performer to get the song on the Pop chart was Eric Clapton, who reached #26 in 1974 with his version.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

"When Your Heart Is Weak" by Cock Robin

Song#:  2360
Date:  06/15/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  35
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This quartet headed up by singer/songwriter Peter Kingsbery and co-lead singer Anna LaCazio formed in the early 80s and by 1984 they were signed to Columbia Records. They set out to record their self-titled debut album and by the summer of '85 it was ready. To introduce the album, this first single was issued. The song lingered around the chart for quite a while and eventually peaked just inside the Pop Top 40. It also reached #28 at Rock. It would end up being their only charting single in the US. While luck in their homeland was limited, overseas their fortunes blossomed. This song reached the Top 10 in a few European countries. Its follow-up, "The Promise You Made," would become their biggest hit making it onto more charts and even hitting #1 in Belgium. Their next two albums would feature more chart entries in Europe, but by 1990 the band split. Kingsbury would move to France, where the band was very popular, and began a solo career. Cock Robin would reunite over the years and push out some new material, but none would be as popular as their mid-80s European output.

ReduxReview:  This song definitely had a Euro-pop feel, so it's not surprising that it did better on that side of the world. It's a mid-temp tune with a lot of atmosphere, a good chorus, and a nice vocal performance from Kingsbery. It's a subtle tune that falls in that weird area of not really being a ballad, but also not being something upbeat and danceable. Songs like that sometimes get lost on the chart. This one did okay, getting into the Top 40, but is should have done better. It's a lovely tune.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  So what's up with the band's name? Apparently it came from the old English poem "The Courtship and Marriage of Cock Robin and Jenny Wren." The story, which seems to have also appeared in Mother Goose books, is about two birds who fall in love and get married. But tragedy strikes when a hawk swoops in to steal away Jenny Wren. A sparrow sees this happening and with a bow and arrow tries to kill the hawk. Unfortunately, the sparrow was a bad shot and instead of the hawk, the arrow hit Cock Robin and killed him. The name Jenny Wren would appear again in literature in 1864 when Charles Dickens gave that name to a character in his novel Our Mutual Friend. It was Dickens' last fully completed work. Paul McCartney would later write a song based on that character titled "Jenny Wren." I appeared on his 2005 album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. The song got McCartney a Grammy nod for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.