Saturday, July 7, 2018

"I'm Goin' Down" by Bruce Springsteen

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2457
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  48
Peak:  9
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Springsteen's massive hit album Born in the U.S.A. had spawned five Top 10 hits. As the fifth single, "Glory Days," was winding down it's run to #5, the album showed little signs of slowing down. After being on the chart for over a year, it was still riding high in the Top 10. Because of that, it seemed like a logical idea to keep the singles rolling out and this track was chosen to be the next one released. Like the previous singles, this one debuted high on the chart and wound its way into the Pop Top 10. It was also a hit at Rock radio reaching the same #9 position. With the results of this single, Springsteen was encroaching on territory carved out by Michael Jackson's Thriller album, which generated a record-setting seven Top 10 singles.

ReduxReview:  I didn't mind this song from the album, but it wasn't among my favorites. Apparently, Springsteen sings the word "down" about 80 times in the track and that was probably about 60 too many for me. The repetitiveness of the tune kinda drove me nuts. We get it - you ain't gettin' none and you're goin' down, down, down, down, down, etc. Ugh. The music was solid as was the short Clarence Clemmons sax solo, but overall it was mediocre Springsteen (which can still be steps ahead of many other artists...).

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song almost did not make it on the album. In the sessions that took place leading up to the Born in the U.S.A. album, Springsteen recorded around 70 songs. Some of these found their way to other albums like Nebraska and the 1998 compilation Tracks, while others remain vaulted away. There were many contenders for the Born album and initially "I'm Goin' Down" was gonna get left off the album in favor of another song called "Pink Cadillac." However, when nailing down the final track listing, Springsteen changed his mind and replaced "Pink Cadillac" with "I'm Goin' Down." However, all was not lost with the song. "Pink Cadillac" would be used for the b-side of "Dancing in the Dark." It would actually gather some airplay at Rock radio and would peak at #27 on that chart. But then the song became far more famous when Natalie Cole cover the track in 1987 and released it as a single. Her version made it to #5 on the Pop chart.


Friday, July 6, 2018

"I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down" by Paul Young

Song#:  2456
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  54
Peak:  13
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits: Young hit the top of the Pop chart with "Every Time You Go Away," the first single from his second album The Secrets of Association. The gold record was a remake of Hall & Oates song and Young kept the cover tunes coming (see below) with this second single from the LP. While this song didn't have the same mass appeal of "Every Time," it still did pretty well getting up near the Pop Top 10 while also reaching #8 Dance and #60 R&B. In Young's UK homeland, this track was the first single released from the album. It became his fourth Top 10 there getting to #9.

ReduxReview:  I really liked this song when it came out. It was full of studio effects and tricks, which I loved. While Ann Peebles' awesome original (see below) was a smokey mid-tempo soul jam, Young turns it into a more agitated modern synth-rock track and it pays off pretty well. These days, the song sounds dated with all the 80s gadgetry enhancing about every other beat, but I still like it. The decade featured quite a few cover tunes updated with the latest equipment and studio tricks, but many of them ranged from meh to awful. However, I thought this one was updated quite well.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by soul star Ann Peebles. Peebles recorded the song, written by Earl Randle, in 1972 and it was issued out as a single the following year. It was able to reach #31 on the R&B chart, but it failed to make the Pop chart. It was then included on her 1974 album I Can't Stand the Rain. That album's title track would become Peebles' biggest and most well-known hit getting to #6 R&B and #38 Pop. Ten years later, Tina Turner would do a cover of that tune for her comeback album Private Dancer.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"Miami Vice Theme" by Jan Hammer

#1 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2455
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  59
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Synthpop, Instrumental, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  In the fall of '84, the TV crime drama Miami Vice debuted. Although it wasn't an out-of-the-box smash in its first season, the show would become a cultural phenomenon thanks to its violent themes, expensive cars, flashy 80's clothing, and especially its use of music. The Michael Mann-produced series used tracks like Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and Glenn Frey's "Smuggler's Blues" to good effect in some episodes. Even music stars like Frey made guest appearances on the show. Along with pop/rock music tracks, composer Jan Hammer was hired on to supply the background music to the show and write its theme song. With the series' popularity on the rise and songs heard in the show gaining airplay, it was decided that Hammer's theme should be pushed out as a single. The instrumental caught on and became a multi-chart hit reaching the top spot at Pop, #10 R&B, #16 AC, #23 Dance, and #29 Rock. It was even popular across the pond and made it to #5 in the UK. A soundtrack album from the show would follow and it would end up spending eleven non-consecutive weeks at the top of the chart. This would be Hammer's only charting single in the US. With having a #1-and-done chart career, some called him a one-hit-wonder, but Hammer is typically left off of those lists because he is mainly known as a composer of scores rather than a pop musician reaching out for chart glory. Despite his long list of works for film and TV, when Michael Mann decided to do a film version of Miami Vice in 2006, he didn't ask Hammer to do the music. In fact, Mann didn't even use the theme song, much to the dismay and dislike of the original show's fans.

ReduxReview:  While I like the beginning of this song and Hammer's synth/production work, I never understood why this single was so popular. There's no real melody to it at all and nothing resembling a repetitive chorus. I mean, at least "Axel F" had a hooky, memorable melody. Perhaps it was just the feel of the song combined with the show's popularity that made it take off. Cool guys in t-shirts and pastel Armani sport coats blasting this from their t-top Cameros. Whatever it was, I didn't get it. The tune was a big deal at the time, but it didn't get much of a life after the Miami Vice phenomenon was over. This was probably the first time I'd heard the track since the 80s. It's an oddball curio from the time period that when heard now by some folks makes them go "oh, yeah...I forgot about this!"

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) As the 80s moved forwards, instrumental hits were becoming more rare. A minor few would reach the Top 10 over the years, but none would reach #1. This theme song would be the last #1 instrumental for twenty-eight years! It might have still been the last one except that in 2013, Billboard changed their chart methodology to include streaming. The new rules then allowed a tune called "Harlem Shake" by EDM artist Baauer to debut at #1. It was pushed along thanks to thousands of viral video memes on YouTube that used the song.  2) This song ended up winning two Grammy awards. The track earned Hammer awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition.  3) The success of the soundtrack prompted a second one to be issued late in '86. For it, Hammer beefed up another part of his score for the show into an instrumental track titled "Crockett's Theme." It was pushed out as a single, but it failed to chart at Pop. The best it could do was a #42 showing at AC. However, it was a different story in Europe where the track was a Top 10 hit in many countries. It reached #2 in the UK, which bested the #5 peak of the original theme.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

"Communication" by Power Station

Song#:  2454
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  65
Peak:  34
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This supergroup featuring Robert Palmer on vocals scored two Top 10's from their self-titled debut album, which also made the Top 10 and went gold. To try and keep things flowing, this third single was issued out from the LP. The track was able to crack the Pop Top 40, but that was all it could do. It would be the band's last single to reach any US chart. With Palmer's career back on track thanks to his work with Power Station, he decided to capitalize on the moment and take off for a solo career. The remaining trio tried to soldier on with a new singer (see below), but they decided to end the band later in '85. The original quartet including Palmer did reform in 1996 to record a new album, however bassist John Taylor had to drop out for personal reasons prior to entering the studio. The band's producer Bernard Edwards stepped in for him, but then Edwards died not long after the recording sessions. The album, titled Living in Fear, was issued in the fall of '96 and was dedicated to Edwards.

ReduxReview:  Bernard Edwards' production basically keeps this song afloat, but barely. Take that a way and there's not much to grab on to here. It's just a groove with a verse and a chorus that aren't all that different from each other. It all kind of bleeds together with nothing standing out to grab your attention. Compare this to "Some Like It Hot," which was hooky as hell, and you'll hear the difference between a hit and one that isn't. I'm even amazed it reached the Top 40.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  When Palmer left the band, the other members decided to continue on as Power Station and set out to hire a new lead singer. They decided to bring on board singer/actor Michael Des Barres. Des Barres' former band, Chequered Past, had opened up for Duran Duran on some of their tour spots and so Duran/Power Station members John Taylor and Andy Taylor were familiar with Des Barres. With Des Barres in place, the band toured and also played at Live Aid. Des Barres had some Hollywood connections and that led to them appearing on an episode of the hit TV show Miami Vice. They were also hired to contribute a song to the soundtrack for the film Commando, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. But by the end of '85, Power Station members started to do other projects and they finally just let the band fold. Des Barres would record his second solo studio album in '86 titled Somebody Up There Likes Me, but it didn't get anywhere. He had better luck acting and appeared in many TV shows including recurring roles on MacGuyver and Melrose Place. One of his more memorable roles was when he played Leon's boyfriend Steven in the hit TV show Roseanne.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

"We Built This City" by Starship

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2453
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  73
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Jefferson Starship's 1984 album Nuclear Furniture was the band's eighth studio album to at least reach gold level sales. However, since 1979's Freedom at Point Zero, the band had been leaning in a more commercial, radio friendly direction and that wasn't sitting well with Paul Kantner, the last original member of Jefferson Airplane/Starship to still be in the band. He finally decided to part ways but if he was going, so was the band's name and he filed a lawsuit to prevent the others from using the Jefferson moniker. A settlement was reached and in the end everyone agreed to not use "Jefferson" in any band name. With other members of Jefferson Starship ready to move on, including Grace Slick, they decided to simply use Starship for the band name and issued out their first album Knee Deep in the Hoopla. This first single was pushed out ahead of the album and it took off for the #1 spot at Rock. The song took its time scaling the Pop chart, but it also made it to the apex. It also got to #37 AC and #37 Dance. It was the first #1 hit for the band in any of its iterations. It also earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  Here it is - the ever infamous love-it-or-loathe-it 80s...ummm...classic? The song about corporations and commercialism ruining rock 'n' roll and contributing to its demise was pretty much in itself a totally commercial and corporate record. The band wanted hits and they reached out to other writers looking for something that could be one and they wound up with this tune. The song has taken a lot of flack over the years, but what it comes down to is if you accept it for what it is and like it, or if you think its a bunch of clap trap by a no longer relevant band. I happen to like it. From the near-a capella opening to the big 80s synth production and DJ voice over, I found it to be hooky and a lot of fun. Is it a great song? Nope. It has nonsensical lines like "Marconi plays the mamba" and the song's sentiment is kind of corny, but for me it's hard not to nostalgically jam along to it when I hear the tune.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Ever since this song became a hit, many folks have derided it. Perhaps the most notorious diss of the song came in 2004 when Blender magazine issued out a list of the worst songs ever recorded and this one was ranked #1. The distinction rankled fans of the song along with a couple of the ol' Starship members. But that wouldn't be it. In 2011, Rolling Stone readers voted this the worst song of the 80s by a wide margin. And then in 2016, GQ magazine named it the worst song of all time. Despite all these negative accolades, the song lives on and has made its writers and publishers a butt load of money.  2) When this song hit #1, co-lead singer Grace Slick was 47-years-old. That made her the oldest female artist to reach #1 on the Pop chart. She would hold that record until 1999 when a spry 52-year-old Cher hit #1 with "Believe.  3) Lyrics for this song came from famous Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin. At the time Taupin was trying to work with other artists besides John and his lyrics for this song ended up in the lap of songwriter Martin Page. Page then supplied the music and created a demo. Apparently, the original version was darker in tone and not as hooky. When Starship's producers Dennis Lambert and Peter Wolf picked up the tune, they decided to make some changes. They made the song a bit more upbeat with a more repetitive chorus and added the DJ section, which was performed by Les Garland, a former radio programming director who was a bigwig at MTV at the time. Due to their additions, Lambert and Wolf ended up with writing credits on the song.


Monday, July 2, 2018

"You Are My Lady" by Freddie Jackson

Song#:  2452
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  12
Weeks:  20
Genre:  R&B, Quiet Storm, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Jackson's very first single, "Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake)" was a major hit for him getting to #1 at R&B and #18 Pop. This follow-up single would do even better by reaching #1 at R&B, #3 AC, and nearly nicking the Pop Top 10. It would be Jackson's biggest career hit and easily became his signature tune. The two singles helped propel his debut album to #1 R&B/#10 Pop and would end up being a platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  This is just a lovely song wonderfully delivered by Jackson. It should have easily slid into the Pop Top 10, but it stalled just shy. While "Rock Me Tonight" certainly put Jackson on the map, this was the song that truly made him a star. Grammy folks took notice and handed him a nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, for this song. Frankly, he should have won but he got aced out by Grammy fave Stevie Wonder for his less-than-stellar album In Square Circle. Regardless, this song remains one of the best R&B slow jams of the decade.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written and produced by Barry Eastmond. Eastmond started out doing some arranging and production work for artists like The O'Jays and Teddy Pendergrass in the early 80s. His songwriting skills came into play soon after and his songs began to get picked up by a few artists including Billy Ocean, who recorded Eastmond's "Dancefloor" for his hit album Suddenly. Melba Moore also recorded one of Eastmond's songs. That connection came in handy later when Moore was helping one of her backup singers, Freddie Jackson, get his career going. Eastmond and Jackson got hooked up and the pair began work on Jackson's debut album. Eastmond would write/co-write and produce six tracks for the album. One of those tracks was this song which Eastmond had written as a tribute to his wife. The song and album were hits and helped to solidify Eastmond's career as a writer/producer.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Perfect Way" Scritti Politti

Song#:  2451
Date:  09/07/1985
Debut:  87
Peak:  11
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  When Green Gartside formed Scritti Politti in 1977, the band was involved in the UK punk scene. Their raw sound coupled with arty, sometimes political lyrics gained attention and it got them signed to Rough Trade Records in 1979. The band recorded a couple of EPs for the label prior to recording their debut album. However, the direction of the band took a big left turn when Garside suffered a major panic attack after a show and needed to recover. During that time, Garside began to develop a fondness for pop and R&B music and his interest in indie/punk began to wane. Once back to work Garside recorded a song based on his new influences titled "The Sweetest Girl." It became the band's first charting song in the UK and a debut album soon followed that made it to #12. That prompted a change to a major label (Warner for the US) and a change of scenery as Garside took off for New York. With two new band mates and famous producer Arif Mardin on board, Scritti Politti recorded their second album Cupid & Psyche 85. The LP's first single, "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)," would reach the Top 10 in the UK. In the States, the single got to #4 on the Dance chart, but failed at Pop. However, this second single would grab the airwaves and after a slow start the song nearly made the Pop Top 10 peaking at the dreaded #11. It would also get to #6 Dance and #85 R&B. In the UK, the song was the album's fifth single and it stalled at #48.

ReduxReview:  This band went through quite a change. This commercial-leaning dance-pop track is vastly different from their indie beginnings. Many artists make changes to their sound over time, but this song sounds like something Scritti members would have been rallying against back in the day. However, those that love 80s synthpop were probably glad Garside went through his musical change as this was such a catchy, radio-friendly track that easily made a lot of people happy. It would be the band's only major hit in the US, but it was a solid one and the album is a bit of an 80s synthpop classic.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In the beginning, the band was known for being Marxist-leaning, which was occasionally reflected in their lyrics. They seemed to particularly like Italian Marxist philosopher, writer, and politician Antonio Gramsci. As a nod to Gramsci, they adopted an Italian phrase as their name. Scritti Politici basically means "political writings" and that seemed to fit in with their music and with what Gramsci did. However, Garside thought it needed a little rock 'n' roll update and change the second word to Politti so that the name flowed easily like the early rock song "Tutti Frutti." Although Garside and the band would abandon their Marxist beginnings, the name would stick around.  2) Jazz legend Miles Davis ended up doing a cover of this tune for his 1986 classic album Tutu. Apparently, as Davis was recording the album, his producer Tommy LiPuma suggested adding a cover tune and gave him a bunch of pop albums for Davis to listen to and perhaps find a song. Davis ended up loving "Perfect Way" and chose to record it. Garside was able to meet Davis afterward and the pair became friendly. Davis would even perform on a track titled "Oh Patty (Don't Feel Sorry for Loverboy)" from Scritti Politti's third album Provisions. That song would be a hit in the UK reaching #13 in 1988.