Saturday, June 30, 2018

"A Little Bit of Heaven" by Natalie Cole

Song#:  2450
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  81
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Although Cole's album Dangerous wasn't the big comeback that she was perhaps hoping for, it at least did get her back on the charts with the title track reaching #16 at R&B and #57 Pop. This next single helped to keep things moving by becoming her first charting hit at AC in five years. It was able to reach #11 on that chart. It didn't do quite as well at Pop or R&B (#28), but the two songs combined helped to get Cole's career going again.

ReduxReview:  This is a solid song and I like the reggae-ish feel of the arrangement. I'm not sure why it didn't catch on, especially with the added exposure via TV (see below). Cole did a great job and the production was in-step with the 80s. It was a subtle and relaxed song, so perhaps it just didn't stand out and ended up getting lost on the radio. Regardless, It really should have done a whole lot better.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The third single from Dangerous was the upbeat track "Secrets." It wasn't able to crack the Pop or R&B charts, but it did get on the Dance chart at #36. Rhino Records listed it among five "forgotten" songs in Cole's catalog that should have been hits. It was co-written by Marti Sharron, who co-wrote "Jump (For My Love)" for the Pointer Sisters, and Dianne Steinberg.  2) This song got some further exposure via a soap opera. It was one of the songs used as a love theme for the couple Eden and Cruz on Santa Barbara.


Friday, June 29, 2018

"Master and Servent" by Depeche Mode

Song#:  2449
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  92
Peak:  87
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  After getting four Top 10 albums and five Top 10 singles in their UK homeland, Depeche Mode finally broke through on the US chart with the #13 "People Are People." The single was taken from a US-only catch-up album of the same name and it was also on their fourth studio album Some Great Reward, which began to sell as well thanks to the hit. This follow-up single was taken from Some Great Reward, but it failed to catch fire. It spent a short time on the Pop chart while getting to #44 at Dance. It did much better in the UK where it reached #9. While "People Are People" got them attention in the US, they wouldn't have another significant hit until the very end of the decade.

ReduxReview:  This was a terrific follow-up single, but I think it was just a little too dark and mechanical for US ears. "People Are People" certainly wasn't all sunshine and roses, but it had hooks galore in it that played well on radio and connected with listeners on the first spin. "Master" wasn't quite as immediately hooky and it took a couple of listens to dial in on the song, which wasn't gonna fly on Pop radio. It's too bad as this was a quality track from a band that was ahead of the curve when it came to synthpop production.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  For a popular hit-making band to record a song where the main subject concerns BDSM was a bit progressive at the time, so when this song was issued as a single, controversy ensued. The song's theme and sound effects rankled some radio folks and it seems some stations, particularly in the US, decided to not play the song. Although the song was played on the BBC, there has always been a persistent rumor as to why. The story goes that when the BBC staff voted on whether or not to air the song, the vote swayed in favor of airplay due to one staffer, who would have voted no, being gone on vacation. It's unclear whether this is fact or a good story, but there were stations in other countries who chose not to play the song. Apparently, one of the reasons some stations banned it was due to the whip sound on the record. For some reason, that crossed the line. Oddly, that sound was not an actual whip. The band did try to record a real whip but it wasn't working out. In the end, the sound was made via a human. Daniel Miller, the head of Depeche Mode's label Mute and their co-producer, used his voice to create the sound.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

"And She Was" by Talking Heads

Song#:  2448
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  94
Peak:  54
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Talking Heads gained a wider, more mainstream audience when their single "Burning Down the House" made it to #9. It helped turn their album Speaking in Tongues into a platinum-level seller. Following a concert film and associated live/soundtrack album, the Heads returned to the studio to record a proper follow-up. The album would be titled Little Creatures and its first single would be the closing track "Road to Nowhere." The track made it to #25 at Rock, but it failed to reach the Pop chart. It didn't set the album up for success, but then this second single was issued and things turned around. The track got to #11 at Rock while just missing out on the Pop Top 50. It also got to #33 at Dance. It was helped along by a popular video that got the band two MTV Music Video Award nominations - one for Best Group Video and one for Best Concept Video. The Little Creatures LP would reach #20 on the chart and over time it would go double-platinum, which would make it their best-selling studio album.

ReduxReview:  I think this is one of Talking Heads' most pop-friendly, radio ready tracks and I was surprised that it didn't do better on the chart. It might have done better had it been the first single, but for some reason they issued out "Road to Nowhere," which then should have been the follow-up. David Byrne can write a commercial leaning tune when he wants to and this was one of his best efforts to do so.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  For this song's video, the band wanted to hire on director Jim Blashfield. They had seen Blashfield's short film Suspicious Circumstances, which utilized a collage-style animation technique, and thought it would be perfect for "And She Was." Blashfield signed on and after the success of the video, more offers came in. He would end up doing several more music videos for artists like Paul Simon, Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel, and even Weird Al Yankovic. His most successful video was for Michael Jackson's "Leave Me Alone." Although that song would not be issued in the US as a single (it was elsewhere including the UK where it hit #2), the video was very successful on MTV. It would be nominated for six MTV Music Video Awards including Best Video. It would win one for Best Special Effects. It would also win a Grammy for Best Music Video, Short Form.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush

Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2447
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  95
Peak:  30
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Art Rock

Pop Bits:  UK singer/songwriter Kate Bush got an early head start in music. As she reached her teens she was already busy at the piano writing her own songs. By the age of fifteen, her parents helped Bush record a demo tape and got it circulated to labels and other music biz folks. Through a connection, the tape found its way to Pink Floyd's David Gilmour who heard something in the teenager's music. He got in contact with Bush and proceeded to help her record a more professional demo. She was sixteen when she signed a contract with EMI Records. It would be nearly two years before Bush would finally begin to record her debut album. Her first single, "Wuthering Heights," wowed UK listeners. It would reach #1 on the chart and remain there for four weeks. A second single, "The Man with the Child in His Eyes," would reach #6 and become her first song to chart in the US (#85, 1979). While she continued to have hits in the UK and Europe over the course of three more albums, her music didn't catch on in the US where she became more of a cult-ish music figure. That began to change when this first single from her fifth album Hounds of Love was released. It slowly caught on and was able to crack the Pop Top 30. It also made it to #34 Rock, #34 AC, and #17 Dance. The album sold well and also peaked at #30. It took nearly seven years, but Kate Bush finally made some inroads in the US market.

ReduxReview:  Prior to this song I had little knowledge of Kate Bush. I was slightly familiar with her due to a college roommate having one of her records (the US-only EP Kate Bush), but for some reason I didn't really pay attention or discover her music. Then this song came out. The mysterious rolling track got my attention along with Bush's voice. The way the song ebbed and flowed and built to a thundering climax was just spectacular. The production of it bowled me over as well. All it took was this song and I was hooked on Kate Bush. She quickly became (and still is) one of my all-time favorite artists and this album has been floating near the top of my list of personal favorites ever since it came out. Although CDs were beginning to gain some market share at at the time, vinyl still ruled and Hounds of Love was meant for the format. It had two distinct portions. The "a" side of the LP had five pop-oriented songs that were ready for radio. The "b" side was a concept suite titled "The Ninth Wave." It contained seven songs that flowed together and weaved a story about a person drifting alone at night in the sea. Because the production and engineering was so rich and interesting on the LP, I often would listen to it on headphones instead of through speakers and drift off to the special little worlds that Bush created. For me, Hounds of Love is a classic and is essential listening for any true fan of rock or prog rock music.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) When Bush wrote this song she originally titled it "A Deal with God" and she wanted it to be the first single from the album. This created a couple of issues with her label. First, they wanted another track, "Cloudbursting," to be the first single and second, they anticipated potential problems with the song's title, in particular the use of "God." Regardless of the meaning of the song, the label felt they might have a tough time trying to get a song titled as such played in more religious leaning countries. Basically, they thought the song might be banned due to its title. Bush, who was known for fighting for her artistic rights even when she was a teen, decided to compromise on the situation. She would relent and let the single be called "Running Up That Hill," however it had to be the first single. Indeed it was and she came out of it with her second biggest hit in the UK (#3) and her best showing in the US. On the album, the song carries the title "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)."  2) This song got an unexpected revival in 2022. It would be featured in key scenes in the fourth season of the Netflix sci-fi horror series Stranger Things. Bush's song would be a favorite of the character Max (Sadie Sink) and would be used in a crucial plot point. Since the tune was so tied to a specific event/scene, it got the attention of viewers, especially younger ones who were not familiar with it, and streaming of the song immediately increased in volumes. With chart rules changed since the time the song was first released, all it took was the millions of listens to get it back on the Pop chart. "Running Up That Hill" would finally become a Top 10 hit nearly 37 years after its release. It would peak at #3. The song's resurgence also helped Bush's album Hounds of Love, which also reached a new peak of #12.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"Dancing in the Street" by Mick Jagger and David Bowie

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2446
Date:  08/31/1985
Debut:  47
Peak:  7
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  As things were gearing up for the big Live Aid charity concerts that would take place in London and Philadelphia, the idea of having Jagger and Bowie perform this song as a live international duet came about. Jagger would perform from Philadelphia and Bowie from London. However, it was determined that sound delays from the satellite feeds would prevent the artists from being synced correctly. Other ideas came up such as either artist miming the performance, but the pair were not on board with that. Instead, it was decided that they would record the tune in the studio and then make a video that would be broadcast during the event. Bowie was already recording a project a London, so Jagger flew in to do the song. It was quickly done in about four hours and then the pair ran off to film the associated video. Within a thirteen-hour span, the song and video were completed. The video was shown during the broadcasts of the concerts and both Bowie and Jagger still did their regularly scheduled performances at their respective venues. The video was then picked up for play on MTV and a single of the duet was released with proceeds going to the Live Aid charity. The song would be a big hit in the UK reaching #1 and staying there for four weeks. It also did well in the US reaching the Top 10 and getting to #3 at Rock and #4 at Dance. Oddly, it would be both Jagger's and Bowie's final single as solo credited artists to reach the Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure whose idea it was to cover this song or why, but it resulted in one of the worst mega-star collaborations of all time. Believe me, it is hard for me to say that as I love both of these artists - especially Bowie who nearly tops the list of my favorite artists. Yet what made the duet even worse what the atrocious video that was made. It goes beyond a "what were they thinking" to "who actually let them do that??" The video has them goofily dancing and preening all over the place in awful 80s clothes. Now, I get that they probably just wanted to have fun and be kooky, especially since they really had limited time to shoot the video, but it just didn't work. It's nearly painful to watch. It has been made fun of for years and there was even a music-less version of the video that someone created that hilariously showcased just how bad the video was. The song wasn't quite as bad, but it was close. When this song pops up in a playlist, I'm hitting the forward button as fast as I can. It's a total stink bomb from two of rocks greatest artists. Ah well. At least it was a sizable hit and that certainly help the Live Aid charity, so something good did come out of it.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by Martha and the Vandellas. Their 1964 version reached #2 at Pop and became a Motown classic. Marvin Gaye co-wrote this song just as his own solo career was kicking into high gear. Many artists have covered this song over the years but only five artists have managed to get their single release on the Pop chart. The Mamas & the Papas got to #73 with their 1967 version. Jazz artist Ramsey Lewis hit #84 that same year with his take. Disco singer Teri DeSario got to #66 in 1980 with her duet on the song with K.C. from K.C. & the Sunshine band. The song returned to the Top 40 for the first time since the original when Van Halen's remake got to #38 in 1982. Then the Jagger and Bowie collaboration got the song back into the Top 10. As of this posting date, it is still the last version of the song to get on the Pop chart.


Monday, June 25, 2018

"A Night at the Apollo Live! The Way You Do the Things You Do/My Girl" by Daryl Hall & John Oates

Song#:  2445
Date:  08/31/1985
Debut:  53
Peak:  20
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Blue-Eyed Soul, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After scoring twelve Top 10 hits in the 80s thus far (including five #1's), Hall & Oates were ready for a break and for new adventures. But before they could do that, they had one more contractual album to deliver to RCA. The duo set up a special show at the famed Apollo Theater in New York that had them performing old R&B classics along with a some of their recent hits. Joining in with them would be two of their musical heroes from The Temptations, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin. The show would be recorded and portions of it would be used to make their final album for RCA, Live at the Apollo. A medley of four Motown hits was one of the show's highlights and to help promote the album, an edited version of the medley that showcased two of the songs was pushed out as a single. It ended up doing pretty well making the Pop Top 20 while getting to #12 at AC and #40 R&B. It helped the album reach #21 and eventually it would be a gold-seller. With their obligations done at RCA, the duo was now free to do as they wish and it would be nearly three years before they would return to the charts.

ReduxReview:  Kendricks and Ruffin do most of the heavy lifting here with H&O relegated to the background. I'm sure the nostalgia factor helped this one out along with the H&O name, but there's nothing really special here. Like most live recordings, it was probably much better in person and I'm sure H&O had a blast performing with two of their big influences. I'm glad they had fun, but it didn't do anything for me.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Eddie Kendricks sang the lead vocal on the original version of "The Way You Do the Things You Do," which was recorded by The Temptations. The 1964 single was the group's first to reach the Pop chart getting to #11. It was their first #1 at R&B. The Temptations also were the first to record "My Girl." That 1964 single became their first to reach #1 at Pop. It also got to #1 at R&B. This time around, David Ruffin did the lead vocal. On this live single, Kendricks and Ruffin take the lead on their respective songs with Hall & Oates and their band backing them. Both songs have been remade by many artists over the years and a few of them have reached the Pop chart. The best performing cover of "The Way You Do" was in 1990 when UB40 got to #9 with their reggae inspired version. The artist that peaked the highest with a full cover of "My Girl" was from R&B singer Suave. His 1988 new jack version got to #20


Sunday, June 24, 2018

"Sunset Grill" by Don Henley

Song#:  2444
Date:  08/31/1985
Debut:  60
Peak:  22
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Henley lost a little ground with the third single from his second album Building the Perfect Beast when "Not Enough Love in the World" topped out at #34 on the heels of two Top 10 hits. Hoping to gain back some ground, this fourth single was issued out. It did indeed do better, but it just fell short of the Top 20. However, it was a good hit at Rock getting to #7. It also made the AC chart at #18.

ReduxReview:  Much like Henley's hit "The Boys of Summer," this song has a distinctive atmosphere. It ends up being very film noir-ish, especially when the horns kick in. It sounds like old school 40s or 50s Hollywood. Even the lyrics have a gritty feeling that seem to question why people live in such a commercialized place that is loaded with fraudulent and empty people. The Sunset Grill then provides a bit of respite from all of the hazy mess. I loved the song right away and it became my second favorite Henley track right after "Boys." It is also one of those rare tracks where I dig the full album version over the edited single. It's a song that needs to linger and tell its story.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although this would be the last official single released from the album, one other track did become a hit on the Rock chart. "Drivin' With Your Eyes Closed" gathered enough airplay to reach #9 on the chart. It would be Henley's fifth Rock Top 10.  2) The title of this song was named after an actual place. The Sunset Grill was a hamburger joint on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. It was just a hole-in-the-wall type place that seated only about twenty people. Henley used to frequent the place as it was one he could go and pretty much remain anonymous. In fact, the owner of the restaurant had no idea who Henley was and it took other people to tell him that Henley had written a song about the place. Thanks to the song, the Grill got a boost in business from music fans who wanted to have glimpse into the place that inspired Henley's song. The same family owned the Grill for forty years. They finally sold it in 1997 and the new owners razed it and built a new place that is still called The Sunset Grill.