Saturday, April 14, 2018

"Tired of Being Blonde" by Carly Simon

Song#:  2373
Date:  06/29/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  70
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Synthpop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Simon's fortunes in the 80s took a big hit after she was able to reach #11 with the 1980 single "Jesse." From that point on, nothing clicked for her. After three albums with Warner Bros., it was time for a change, so Simon took off and signed on with Epic. With a bevy of writers, producers, and musicians, she recorded her twelfth studio album, Spoiled Girl. This first single was issued to promote the album, but like her previous singles, it pretty much tanked. Even AC radio didn't take to the song and it stopped at a low #34. In turn, the album became the lowest peaking of her career barely mustering a #88 peak. A second single couldn't chart anywhere and that brought an end to her time at Epic. It would be two years before she would resurface again on another label (Arista) and experience a career resurgence.

ReduxReview:  This was certainly an attempt to keep Simon viable in the synthpop 80s (a la Melissa Manchester), but it just didn't work. The single sounds good for an 80s track - and it should with all the names involved, including four (!) producers. The problem is that the song it not all that good. It sounds like a tune Simon might have recorded in the 70s, but amped up for the 80s. It's a bit loud and rock-leaning, which was never Simon's strength. She's never been a forceful vocalist, so she kind of gets blown out by the production here. In other words, it all sounds forced and not at all like Simon. Luckily, she'd gain her mojo back with her next album.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This song was written by a gentlemen with a colorful name - Larry Raspberry. Raspberry was a musician and songwriter who was able to get some of his songs recorded by a few major artists like Simon, Jimmy Buffett, and Carl Perkins. Raspberry's own claim to chart fame was when he was with the late 60s band The Gentrys. That band was able to grab one major hit with 1965's #4 "Keep on Dancing." Another person in the band would go on to greater fame with a different career. Pro wrestling manager Jimmy Hart, aka "The Mouth of the South," was a member of The Gentrys and would later become quite famous during the WWF's 80s heydays.


Friday, April 13, 2018

"Take No Prisoners (In the Game of Love)" by Peabo Bryson

Song#:  2372
Date:  06/29/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  78
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Bryson finally got his first Pop Top 10 hit when the big ballad "If Ever You're in My Arms Again" made it to #10 in 1984. The track would also reach #1 at AC and #6 R&B. His associated album Straight from the Heart would sell well and garner him a new set of fans. But keeping them was tricky and he was hoping his next LP Take No Prisoners would be another winner. Unfortunately, this title track from the new album couldn't do much of anything on the charts. It barely scraped the Top 40 mark at both R&B (#39) and AC (#37), while tanking near the bottom of the Pop chart. Two follow-up singles failed to do any better and that affected album sales. Bryson would have a tough time throughout the rest of the 80s, but he'd bounce back with a couple of soundtrack hits later in the early 90s.

ReduxReview:  Bryson's bread n' butter was always silky ballads, so it was bit of a surprise that he tried to grab a hit with this synthpop tune. While I appreciate that he wanted to break out of the crooner mold, this song just wan't going to do it. It's definitely not a bad tune, but it was a bit too pop-oriented for R&B, and not strong enough to make an impression at Pop. I think he needed to ride the line a bit more in the way that Jeffery Osborne did with songs like "Stay with Me Tonight." Bryson just needed better material at this point.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Billy Livsey and Sue Shifrin. Shifrin had written songs for several artists and recently had one of her tracks, "Show Some Respect," released as a single by Tina Turner (#37 Pop). Shifrin would later collaborate on a 1990 comeback album for teen idol David Cassidy. The album would be somewhat successful with the single "Lyin' to Myself" reaching #27 Pop/#25 AC. It was his first charting solo hit since 1972. Cassidy and Shifrin would marry in 1991. They would remain together until 2014. Cassidy would die of liver failure in November of 2017.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

"See What Love Can Do" by Eric Clapton

Song#:  2371
Date:  06/29/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  89
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Clapton's first single from his Phil Collins-product album Behind the Sun was the #26 Pop/#1 Rock track "Forever Man." It was written by Jerry Lynn Williams as was this next single. Results were not as good with the song stopping at #20 Rock while barely making the Pop chart for a couple of weeks. It would take four years before Clapton could get another single on the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This laid-back mid-tempo track is not too bad, especially during a time when Clapton wasn't exactly recording radio-friendly material. Oddly, it reminds me a little bit of Steve Winwood's 1986 #13 track "Back in the High Life Again." I think Winwood's track just had a little more commercial flare to it and it sounded good on radio. Clapton's song just lacked a little charisma and excitement. Overall it's a good track, but nothing that was going to attract new fans to Clapton.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Around this time, Clapton began to get in on the whole soundtrack contribution thing. It pretty much started when the song "Heaven Is One Step Away" was selected to be on the 1985 soundtrack to Back to the Future. The track was originally recorded in the Behind the Sun sessions, but it failed to make the LP's final track listing. In 1986, a track from Clapton's new album August also found its way to the soundtrack for the Paul Newman/Tom Cruise film The Color of Money. "It's in the Way That You Use It" would be released as a single, but fail to reach the Pop chart. However, it would eventually become a #1 Rock track. Other soundtrack contributions would follow, but his most famous one came when he wrote one of his most personal songs, "Tears in Heaven," for the soundtrack of the 1992 film Rush. Released as a single, the song would be one of his biggest hits getting to #2 at Pop, #1 AC, and #9 Rock. The song would also earn Clapton three Grammy awards including ones for Record and Song of the Year.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"Freeway of Love" by Aretha Franklin

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2370
Date:  06/22/1985
Debut:  54
Peak:  3
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Franklin grabbed her first gold album in years with her third Arista effort Jump to It, which featured the #1 R&B title track. Produced by Luther Vandross, he gave the album a more contemporary R&B feel that helped attract a new audience. However, her Luther-produced follow-up LP, Get It Right, couldn't maintain the same audience and didn't do as well. After the album's lackluster results, Franklin began paying more attention to what was happening in pop music. She liked the new sounds that were being developed and wanted to get in on the action. For her next LP, she brought on board hot producer Narada Michael Walden and the pair set out to modernize Franklin's sound. The results were issued in the new album Freeway of Love and the title track got things kicked off. The song would end up being her biggest hit in years reaching #1 at R&B, #3 Pop, #1 Dance, and #11 AC. The single's success would spur album sales and Franklin would be awarded the first platinum seller of her career. The song would also earn two Grammys - one for Best R&B Song and one for Best R&B Performance, Female, for Franklin. It was her 18th Grammy win.

ReduxReview:  How big of a deal was this song? Major. Franklin hadn't had a Top 10 Pop hit since 1973 and she was considered an ol' school artist by this time (at a ripe old age of 43!). Although she was still the Queen of Soul, no one expected her to have any more hits or have the ability to complete with the new 80s superstars. Then this song hit the airwaves and it completely clicked. It also helped that the song's video got her in heavy rotation at MTV, which was a significant accomplishment. Franklin was not only back, but the song kicked off a big revival of her career that lasted for quite a while. Not many artists get a second career with a newer, younger audience, but Franklin knew it was possible and she did it. This is a classic 80s track and it still holds up today. Just the opening percussion and hand claps is all it takes for folks to recognize this song. The production was outstanding, the song was great, the sax was hot, and Franklin sold it like no one else. Just brilliant.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In addition to his songwriting and production career, Walden had also maintained a solo career since his debut album in 1976. Along the way he gathered a few R&B chart entries including two Top 10's. Walden had originally written this song as a possible candidate for one of his solo albums. It didn't make the cut, but when he began recording with Franklin, he thought the song might work for her.  2) The sax part was performed by E Street Band member Clarence Clemons.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

"Like a Surgeon" by "Weird Al" Yankovic

Song#:  2369
Date:  06/22/1985
Debut:  74
Peak:  47
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Comedy

Pop Bits:  Yankovic truly established his career with his second album In 3-D. That platinum album featured the #12 hit parody "Eat It" along with two other charting singles. For his follow-up, Dare to be Stupid, Yankovic once again recorded a mix of parody songs, originals, and a polka medley. To get the ball rollin', this parody of Madonna's #1 hit "Like a Virgin" was released. While the video was another winner on MTV, the actual single didn't quite catch fire on the radio. It stalled before it could reach the Pop Top 40. However, for a comedy song, that result wasn't too bad. Yankovic's humor was perfect for the new MTV video format and four songs from the album would receive videos. The clips would be popular, yet further singles from the album failed to chart. The album would quickly go gold and then eventually become Yankovic's second platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  While this song was certainly ripe for a parody, I'm not sure I'd put it among his best efforts. It just falls a little flat on record. But like a lot of his material, it's better when there is an accompanying video. What makes it fun are the little touches that reference Madonna and her original video, such as the lion walking around and Weird Al mimicking Madonna's dancing. Without the visuals, the song is just not as clever as some of his other parodies.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  When Yankovic does a parody song, he usually comes up with the idea and then seeks permission from the original artist to record his version. However, in the case of this tune, it was the one time where the original artist basically came up with the parody idea. It seems that at some point following the success of "Like a Virgin," Madonna joked with a friend about how long it would take before Yankovic would turn her song into "Like a Surgeon." That friend happened to also be a friend of Yankovic's manager, and eventually word got to Weird Al that Madonna had talked about a parody. He thought it was a great idea and proceeded to write "Like a Surgeon."


Monday, April 9, 2018

"Your Love Is King" by Sade

Song#:  2368
Date:  06/22/1985
Debut:  77
Peak:  54
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Quiet Storm, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Sade broke through to the US Pop chart with the exotic #5 "Smooth Operator," the second single from their debut album Diamond Life. For a follow-up, this next track was chosen. This song was originally the first single released from the album in the UK. It did well there getting to #6 in the spring of '84. As a third US single, it didn't fare all that well. It got to #35 at R&B while staying outside of the Pop Top 50.  However, the track was a winner at AC where it peaked at #8. Despite only featuring one major hit, the album did quite well reaching #5 and eventually selling over four million copies.

ReduxReview:  This smooth, jazzy track is another winner from Sade, but it just didn't have that same exotic groove that set "Smooth Operator" apart from all the other songs on the Pop chart. Frankly, I'm surprised they didn't try to reissue the first single, "Hang on to Your Love" (#14 R&B), as it might have caught on following the success of "Smooth Operator." However, the one hit was all that Sade needed to get their career established and success would continue for them over the years.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Sade's Diamond Life album won the Brit award for British Album of the Year in 1985. The Brits, which are awards from the British Phonographic Industry, were first awarded in 1977. It became an annual event beginning in 1982, however the awards were not televised. At the time they were still called the BPI awards. It wouldn't be until 1989 before the more common "Brit" would be used. The first televised awards ceremony of the annual event was in 1985, which was the year Sade took home Album of the Year honors. Since that time, the awards show has grown in stature and today is seen as the UK version of the Grammys. The artist that has won the most Brits over the years is Robbie Williams. He has won a total of 18, which includes 5 he won with his pre-solo band Take That.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

"St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" by John Parr

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2367
Date:  06/22/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  When producer/songwriter David Foster was put in charge of developing the soundtrack to the upcoming film St. Elmo's Fire, he reached out to rocker John Parr for some assistance. Foster liked Parr's work including his recent self-titled debut album that featured the #23 Pop hit "Naughy, Naughty." The pair then set out to come up with a theme song specifically for the film. Yet, instead of using the film and/or its script as inspiration for the song, Parr and Foster looked to another source, Canadian athlete Rick Hansen (see below). Once written, the pair would record the tune for the film's soundtrack. It would be selected as the first single from the associated album and issued out just a few weeks prior to the film's debut. Although it was a bit of a slow starter, the song gained traction after the film's release and after folks began to discover the real inspiration behind the song. It would eventually reach the top spot on the Pop chart while getting to #2 at Rock and #4 at AC. It would help the soundtrack album get to #21 and go gold.

ReduxReview: Without its backstory, who knows whether this song would have still been a big hit. I think it would have done well, but with the movie not a big box office blockbuster (it finished #23 for the year), it might have quietly hit and disappeared. However, the Hansen story tie-in certainly drew attention to the song and definitely had a hand in making it a hit. It turned the song from being a standard film tune into something inspirational. Even when this song became a hit, no one cared about the movie. The Brat Pack flick was a critical dud and no one flocked to the film because of this song. Basically, Parr and Foster found the perfect inspiration at the right time and came up with this 80s classic. Foster gives the tune a noisy, yet exciting production and Parr sells the tune with all he's got. Some folks think it's rather corny, but in the pantheon of inspirational rock themes, I think this one hangs right in there with other biggies like "Eye of the Tiger."

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) When songwriting began on this track, Foster showed Parr a video of Canadian athlete Rick Hansen, who was paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 15 following an accident. Hansen wanted to draw attention and raise money for spinal chord research and began a journey in his wheelchair. Called his "Man in Motion" tour, Hansen traveled about seventy miles a day in his wheelchair from place to place spreading the word and gathering donations. Initially, his efforts didn't garner a lot of press or attention, but after the song became a hit, he was put in the spotlight and soon he had traveled over 24,000 miles in various countries and raised over $26 million.  2) Although this song was eligible, the hit did not receive an Oscar nod for Best Original Song. There are folks that have speculated that the reason for the snub had to do with the song's inspiration. Academy rules state that a song must have been written specifically for the film, which this was. However, what made it a grey area for a lot of folks was the fact that the song was based on Hansen and had nothing to do with the film itself. In essence, it seemed like the song was not written for the film. Whether Hansen's story truly worked against the song is unknown, but all the attention certainly helped Hansen and his cause.