Saturday, June 2, 2018

"Rebels" by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Song#:  2422
Date:  08/17/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  74
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After a stop over in gold territory with Long After Dark, Petty and his band got back into platinum land with the #7 LP Southern Accents. This was mainly due to the success of the #2 Rock/#13 Pop hit "Don't Come Around Here No More" and it's popular MTV video. The album was still doing well when this third single was issued. It would be Petty's fifth Top 10 single at Rock getting to #5. Reception at Pop was minimal and the song would only spend a few weeks in the bottom quarter of the chart. It would be the last single issued from the album.

ReduxReview:  This album opener is another excellent track from Petty and it was certainly a fit for rock radio. Pop radio - not so much. Its Southern rock feel just wasn't gonna fly with the folks who were sending Whitney Houston and Tears for Fears to the top of the chart. That's okay though as I don't think this song was created to be a pop hit. It was just what Petty wrote and it was a good one. I like the "hey hey hey's" of the chorus and the addition of some interesting horn lines. There is something vaguely Springsteen-esque about it as well, which I like. It may not rank among Petty's best, but it's a solid track.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  For Petty, this song will most likely always bring back bad memories of something that nearly ended his guitar playing abilities. Here is what I gather had happened from the various interviews Petty has given concerning the incident. Petty was trying to get Southern Accents completed and out the door and had been working long hours on mixing various songs. When he got to "Rebels," nothing was clicking. It just didn't sound good to him. He went back and played the demo version of the song and thought it was far better than what was being worked on. (Petty recognized later that his ears were probably over exerted and he just couldn't hear properly after so many hours working.) Frustrated with the process, Petty left the studio and went upstairs into his house. As he approached the top of the stairs, he aimed his fist and the wall and punched. It must have been a doozie of a hit as it broke five bones in his hand. Doctors weren't sure how well, or if, Petty would play guitar once it all healed. Luckily, it ended up doing well and Petty was able to return to playing after a nine-month recovery.


Friday, June 1, 2018

"Every Step of the Way" by John Waite

Song#:  2421
Date:  08/10/1985
Debut:  62
Peak:  25
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Waite's solo career kicked into high gear with the big #1 "Missing You." Although that song's follow-ups didn't do all that well, "Missing You" was such a major hit that it carried his album No Brakes to #10 and to gold-level certification. His next step was to record his third solo album, which would be titled Mask of Smiles. This first single would be the introduction to the LP. It found a home on Rock radio and ended up peaking at #4 on that chart. While the song would be his second biggest solo hit on the Pop chart, it didn't do all that well stalling outside of the Top 20. Without a more sizable hit, the album could only get to #36 and it missed out on going gold. It was a disappointment for Waite following the major success of "Missing You."

ReduxReview:  "Missing You" was certainly a blessing for Waite, but it was also a bit of a curse. It was such a strong, well-written song that nothing he released after it could even come close to replicating the success of that song or be nearly as memorable, as this song demonstrates. It starts off nice with some good radio-ready production and a pretty good verse, but the chorus is very weak. It has no hook and acts more like another verse. This is a good example of something that you shouldn't do when writing a pop song (which I learned in my college songwriting classes). Notice how the melody Waite sings in the verse is at a certain level and then when the chorus kicks in, both the melody and Waite's vocals are at lower notes and tones than the verse. It should be the opposite. The verse melody should start at a low level and then build to a chorus that has higher notes. This makes the song more exciting and makes the chorus stick out. There is momentum. In this case, Waite wrote a good verse that should lead to something stronger, but he backs off when the chorus comes and the lower tonality of it basically sucks the life out of the song. There is no payoff, which is essential in making a memorable pop song. Therefore, this song ends up going nowhere. It ends up being a forgettable track from an artist who is more than capable of making hooky, radio-friendly fare.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  For Mask of Smiles, Waite decided to include a cover tune. He ended up choosing to do a version of the 1965 Marvin Gaye classic "Ain't That Peculiar." Gaye's original single was his second #1 on the R&B chart. It also reached #8 at Pop. The song was written by Smokey Robinson and his fellow Miracles. It was also produced by Robinson. Although the song has been covered by many artists, only two other versions have reached the Pop chart. The all-female band Fanny got to #85 in 1972 with their take and rock band Diamond Reo made it to #44 in 1975. Country band New Grass Revival also did a version which made it to #53 on the Country chart in 1986.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

"C-I-T-Y" by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band

Song#:  2420
Date:  08/10/1985
Debut:  65
Peak:  18
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Cafferty and his crew were put in the spotlight thanks to their music for the film Eddie and the Cruisers. With the successful soundtrack behind them, they attempted establish themselves as viable artists apart from the Eddie identity. They did pretty well in doing so via their first post-soundtrack album Tough All Over. The title track would become their second #1 at Rock while reaching #22 at Pop. This second single followed the first into the Rock Top 10 (#9) and did slightly better at Pop getting to #18. Surprisingly, despite the good performance from the two singles, the album could only get to #40 and it would miss going gold, which was a disappointment following the multi-platinum success of the Eddie soundtrack.

ReduxReview:  For this tune Cafferty mixed some retro-R&B into his rock and combined it with a hooky spelled out chorus. The resulting tune was solid track that earned the band a second Top 20 hit. This track and "Tough All Over" did well in trying to distance the band away from the Eddie soundtrack, but not a lot of rock bands in this vein were hitting the chart around this time, so it was going to be a difficult road to even maintain the fans they gained via Eddie. They certainly tried though and came away with a couple more hits.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  So what is the origin of the band being dubbed Beaver Brown? According to a People magazine article, as the band was getting started, they decided to make their rehearsal space a bit more nicer and got paint for the area. Around the same time, the group was trying to come up with a name. Apparently, the color of the paint they were using was called "beaver brown" and that seemed to resonate with the band. Thus they became Beaver Brown. They didn't become known as John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band until the Eddie soundtrack came along.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"And We Danced" by The Hooters

Song#:  2419
Date:  08/10/1985
Debut:  72
Peak:  21
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Hooters' second album Nervous Night got off to a pretty good start with the spooky first single "All You Zombies" (#11 Rock, #58 Pop). The song helped them get established and that came in handy when this next single was released. It would be a solid hit at Rock getting to #3 while just barely missing out on the Pop Top 20. It was helped along by a popular video, which ended up getting them a nomination for Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards.

ReduxReview:  Well, this is certainly more cheery than "All You Zombies." This is hooky as all get-out and I thought for sure it would end up in the Top 10. It was certainly played enough on my local station to make it that far. There is a lot of joy in the tune and within the Hooters' performance as well. It was songs like this that make the album a platinum seller by the spring of '86. It would eventually go double platinum.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  An instrument used on this song became part of the band's signature sound and also helped to give them a name. The melodica is a small keyboard instrument that makes sound when you blow through a small attached tube. It is a free-reed instrument so that when air is passed through it, installed reeds vibrate to make sound. The keyboard resembles and is used like a piano or organ. When a key is pressed, air will then be allowed through to make the note. The melodica can be heard in this song, most obviously at the very beginning, but some folks may also remember it from Cyndi Lauper's hit "Money Changes Everything" where it distinctly heard in the instrumental break of the song (played by Rob Hyman of The Hooters, actually). While the instrument has other names and nicknames, members of this band called it a "hooter" and since it was part of their sound, they decided to take on the name The Hooters.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

"The Power of Love (You Are My Lady)" by Air Supply

Song#:  2418
Date:  08/10/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  68
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After years of making soft rock hits (eight Top 10's in all), the band hit a snag with the first single from their self-titled eighth studio album. "Just As I Am" would do just fine at AC reaching #3, but at Pop the big ballad stalled just inside the Top 20. It seemed the band's sound was out of favor in the changing sounds of the mid-80s. They gave it another go with this second single, which was another big power ballad. This time around the single missed the AC Top 10 (#13) and couldn't get out of the bottom half of the Pop chart. The results didn't bode well for the album, however enough fans showed up to make the LP reach gold level sales.

ReduxReview:  I call this "the song that would not die." While it was a mega hit in Europe (see below), it was lost on US ears. Yet there were artists that were determined to be the one to make it a hit here. Several singers covered the tune and within three years, three different artists got on the Pop chart with the song (Air Supply, Jennifer Rush, and Laura Branigan). By the time Branigan's version came around I was like "noooo...enough...not again!!!" But lo and behold la diva Celine Dion felt the need to revive the thing and she finally made it a #1 hit in the US in 1994. Okay. That's it. No more versions of this dang thing! I was never really a fan of the tune with it's chugging undercurrent and painfully slow build until the end. No matter who sang it, I found the tune and its melody lethargic. It just kept slowly meandering on and would not end. This song was a good fit for Air Supply, but with folks lumping them in the "mom and dad's" music category and dissing their soft sounds, the single was just not going to make it up the mountain. Overall, I will say that I prefer Air Supply's version to the others. They don't overdo it and keep things nicely reined in where the others seem to want to go balls to the wall until they pass out. Still, I'd be happy not to hear this song again.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally co-written and recorded by singer/songwriter Jennifer Rush. Rush recorded it for her self-titled 1984 debut album. The following year it was released around Europe and became a huge hit in several countries including the UK where it stayed at #1 for five weeks. The record would finally be issued in the US in 1986, but Air Supply's cover version ended up beating Rush's original take to the charts.  2) The original title of this song is "The Power of Love" and that is the way it was listed on Air Supply's album. However, when this single was released, there was already a different song called "The Power of Love" on the Pop chart. That song was by Huey Lewis & the News and their Back to the Future theme was on it's way to #1. To avoid any confusion with that song, it was decided that the Air Supply single would have the subtitle "You Are My Lady," which is the phrase that begins the chorus.


Monday, May 28, 2018

"Running Back" by Urgent

Song#:  2417
Date:  08/10/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  79
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock, AOR

Pop Bits:  This five-man rock band from NYC was formed in the mid-80s by a set of triplets - Michael, Don, and Steve Kehr. They caught the attention of a couple major labels and ended up signing on to the EMI subsidiary Manhattan. On board to produce their debut album Cast the First Stone were Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople leader) and Mick Ronson (David Bowie guitarist). This track was select to be the first single. While the AOR tune couldn't made a dent in the Rock chart, it did find its way to the Pop chart for a few weeks. A second single failed to do any business. The results were not all that great, but Manhattan allowed the band to record a follow-up album titled Thinking Out Loud. Nothing came from the album and with that, the band called it quits.

ReduxReview:  This track sounds rather...well...urgent. The song is like a mashup of Bon Jovi and Loverboy done for a low-budget teens-on-the-run movie soundtrack. Although mired in 80s keyboards, the song is not all that bad. It's got a couple of good hooks and the band sounds solid. However, there is nothing here that hasn't been already covered by the aforementioned bands. And besides the triplet factor, there is nothing here that makes the band stand out in a crowded field of rock star wannabes.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Brothers Michael and Don had some previous major label experience prior to forming Urgent. The pair were in a new wave rock band called Sterling that was signed to A&M. Their debut LP City Kids arrived to little notice in 1980. Their first single was an odd cover version of "Baby It's You," the 1961 #8 hit by The Shirelles. It did not chart. A few years later, the brothers grabbed their other twin and formed Urgent.  2) Two member of Urgent would later move over into the acting world. Don Kehr had some Broadway experience when he was young performing in the 1976 play Legend. The show lasted eighteen previews and five performances. He later returned to Broadway performing small parts in the musicals The Who's Tommy, Aida, Billy Elliot: The Musical, and Jersey Boys. Kehr also had a role in the 2014 film version of Jersey Boys. He has also been a bit player on several TV shows including Gotham, House of Cards, and The Good Wife. Urgent's guitarist Yul Vazquez also went into acting. He has appeared in numerous films and TV shows, and was also nominated for a Best Featured Actor in a Play Tony award in 2011. However, fans of the hit TV show Seinfeld may remember Vazquez as Bob, half of the "intimidating" gay couple that appeared on three episodes of the show. In all three, they accosted Kramer for various reasons.


Sunday, May 27, 2018

"Fright Night" by J. Geils Band

Song#:  2416
Date:  08/10/1985
Debut:  93
Peak:  91
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The J. Geils Band was not doing well at all. After losing their co-lead singer/songwriter Peter Wolf, the regrouped band issued their album You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd featuring the lead single "Concealed Weapons." The single tanked (#63) and in turn the album became the lowest peaking of the band's career since their 1970 debut. During this time the band was approached to perform the title song to the upcoming horror flick Fright Night. They recorded the tune, which was composed by songwriter Joe Lamont, and it was issued out as a single. It was promptly ignored spending only two short weeks on the Pop chart and not even making the Rock chart. Despite the film doing quite well, this song and the associated soundtrack couldn't get anywhere. With their post-Wolf results virtually getting the band nowhere, they decided to close up shop and part ways. The band would reunite in 1999 with Wolf for a short tour. They would do it again a few years later and then remained together for a long stretch between 2009 and 2015. The band's namesake, J. Geils, would die of natural causes in 2017.

ReduxReview:  Why did they do this? Was it for the money? Was it to try and grab a "Ghostbusters" type of hit to re-establish the band? They were not above doing sly, comedic tunes, but this one was just plain goofy. It didn't fit the band at all and nothing about this would make you think this was the J. Geils Band. They sounded like any other no-name band that was trying to get their career started by doing a soundtrack song. The lyrics were certainly written with the film in mind and the music isn't too bad. However, J. Geils just wasn't the right artist for the track and it did them no favors.

ReduxRating:  4/10

TriviaFright Night was an unexpected success when it came out in '85. It was pet project by screenwriter Tom Holland who ended up being a first-time direction on the movie as well. Given a minor budget by Columbia Pictures, the film was completed in less than three months with little involvement from the studio. Apparently, Columbia pinned their hopes (and money) on the John Travolta flick Perfect and basically ignored Fright Night, which worked to the film's benefit. In the end, Perfect was a box office bomb while Fright Night ended up being a well-reviewed hit that made nearly four times its budget. Starring Chris Sarandon and Roddy McDowall, the vampire horror film had a comedic side to it that audiences enjoyed and it has since become a popular cult film. It spawned a sequel, a 1989 Bollywood version, and a 2011 remake (and home video sequel), but none of them were remotely as popular as the original. The soundtrack was rock/new wave oriented with the J. Geils theme song plus ones by Autograph, April Wine, Devo, and Sparks.