Saturday, July 28, 2018

"The Oak Tree" by Morris Day

Song#:  2478
Date:  09/28/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  65
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Although Morris Day was the face and voice of The Time, Prince was still in control behind the scenes in production and writing. Following the band's third successful album, 1984's Ice Cream Castle, Day had a bit of a falling out with Prince and decided to strike out on his own. The band's guitarist Jesse Johnson also decided to depart and soon The Time were no more. Day was now able to do his own thing and he signed on with Warner Bros. for his debut solo album Color of Success. This first single was issued out and it took off at R&B getting to #3. It also did well at Dance reaching #14, but the song stalled on the Pop chart before it could even get halfway up. Still, the album sold well and it got to #7 R&B and #37 Pop.

ReduxReview:  Even though he broke up with Prince, Day wasn't going to abandon the Minneapolis sound that made him famous. He channeled his co-write with Prince, "The Bird," and came up with this new dance-oriented song. Day was always a bit of a character and he played it to good effect in the Purple Rain movie and with "The Bird," but he kind of stepped over the kooky line with this one. I'm not sure why he would do another dance track on the heels of "The Bird," which had been a hit a few months prior. I would have thought he'd want to break away a bit from Prince/Time sound and establish his own identity, but instead he basically just exaggerated what he had been doing and it didn't really work. The whole thing was a bit too goofy and bordered on novelty. If that was what he was going for, then he succeeded. I just wasn't buying into it.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Although this song would be the only single from the album to reach the Pop chart, two other tracks did make it on the R&B chart. "The Color of Success" would do well getting to #15 while the tune "The Character" would make it to #34.  2) So how did Prince feel about Day's solo outing? It might be summed up with a musical comment from Prince that happened when he joined Sheila E. for a performance of "A Love Bizarre" at a San Fransisco stop that was being filmed for home video release. At one point during the 10+ minute performance, Prince asked a backing vocalist about the name of a new dance going around. The guy responded "Oak Tree." Prince asked him, "how does it go?" and then the vocalists all kind of do a goofy version of the dance. Then Prince said "Oak Tree? We gonna chop down this Oak Tree and make a wooden leg out of it." He and the band then "chopped" it down with some musical blasts. So it seems Prince wasn't a big fan. However, they made up somewhere along the way as Day and the reformed Time starred in Prince's 1990 film Graffiti Bridge.  3) How did a song and dance get named after a tree? Apparently, Day got the inspiration from watching himself dance in a performance video. At one point in the show he starts doing some odd moves. Day then commented that he looked like an oak tree. Soon after, a new dance was born.


Friday, July 27, 2018

"Blue Kiss" by Jane Wiedlin

Song#:  2477
Date:  09/28/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  77
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Things were not all that rosy in the world of The Go-Go's in the fall of '84 and by the time the tour was over that supported their third album Talk Show, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Jane Wiedlin decided to leave the band for a solo career. The other Go-Go's soldiered on for a while, but then they all just called it quits in May of '85. Wiedlin would end up being the first former member to release a post-Go-Go's project. She recorded a self-titled debut album and this opening track would be selected as the first single. The song tried to crawl out of the basement of the Pop chart, but it just couldn't get its footing and it disappeared after a couple of months. It fared only slightly better on the Dance chart getting to #30. Without a more significant hit, the album could only manage a #127 showing.

ReduxReview:  Unless she had an absolute no-doubt killer track for a single, Wiedlin faced an uphill battled with her first effort. Although The Go-Go's were one of those bands where a lot of folks knew all the members, it was still lead singer Belinda Carlisle who had the most visibility and got a good chunk of the spotlight, which made it easier for her to transition to a solo career. Since Wiedlin wasn't out in front, not many folks really knew her voice nor did they realize she wrote/co-wrote a good chunk of the band's songs including their first hit "Our Lips Are Sealed." So even though she was in one of the most successful all-female bands of all-time, her solo career was gonna put her back at square one and this light, easy tune wasn't strong enough to get the ball rollin'. Wiedlin didn't rely on The Go-Go's sound at all for her debut and that may have been a factor as well for those looking for her to rock out. However, this fluffy puff of a track is really quite lovely and it's a shame it didn't catch on. Actually, her debut album is full of terrific synthpop, new wave tracks and it has always been a favorite of mine. In fact, I'd say it still remains the best project released from any of the former Go-Go's, including hitmaker Carlisle. I'm always hoping folks go back and discover the album.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In addition to her music career, Wiedlin also began to grab some work as an actor. Her first role was a tiny appearance in the cult film Clue in 1985 where she played a singing telegram. The next year she had a small part in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. She also played Joan of Arc in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. She continued to get small parts in films and TV shows and her unique vocal tone also got her jobs supplying character voices for several animated shows like Scooby-Doo, King of the Hill, Mission Hill, and The Rugrats. She also appeared in the fourth season of the MTV reality show The Surreal Life.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

"Eye to Eye" by Go West

Song#:  2476
Date:  09/28/1985
Debut:  91
Peak:  73
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Synthpop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  This duo's self-titled debut album sold fairly well thanks to a couple of mid-chart singles including the #5 Dance hit "We Close Our Eyes" (#41 Pop). They tried to keep interest in the album going by releasing this third single. It didn't do as well as their previous singles, but it hung out on the chart for a few weeks while getting to #23 at Dance.

ReduxReview:  As with their other singles, this one leads off with another hooky synth riff. The rest of this song has a snaky groove a la Hall & Oates, but it's more like a chilled album track rather than a single that's gonna break through on radio. They probably should have stopped at two singles and then set their sights on new material.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was only released as a single in the US and a couple of other territories. In order to give the tune a little boost on the radio, the song was remixed by the R&B/synthpop duo The System. They had a #10 R&B hit (#64 Pop) earlier in '83 with "You Are in My System." The duo beefed up the sound by adding some instrumentation and by switching around the placement of the sax solo, which in the original version was at the very end. This version would only be available as a 7" vinyl single and it has yet to appear in other forms. In the UK, this was not the third single from the LP. Instead, the track "Goodbye Girl" was released. It did well enough to reach #25 there.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

"Lay Your Hands on Me" by Thompson Twins

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2475
Date:  09/21/1985
Debut:  56
Peak:  6
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The Twins hit it big with their fourth studio album Into the Gap. It would be a double-platinum hit thanks to two Top 20 singles including the #3 "Hold Me Now." After a delay (see below), the band was able to finally record their follow-up LP Here's to Future Days. This first single was issued out in the US and it would go on to become the trio's second Top 10 hit. I would also do well at AC and Rock where it reached #14 on both charts while making a minor impact at Dance at #46.

ReduxReview:  Here's another great riff (the piano) and groove from the Twins with a grand chorus that is just hard to resist. In certain ways, it nearly combines the best elements of "Hold Me Now" and "Doctor! Doctor!," which is pretty great. I especially like when Bailey's voice quietly drifts off at the end of the bridge on "feel the magic of your touch..." It helps to make the chorus really explode. If pushed I'd have to say that this is probably my favorite song from the Twins. I also liked the album far better than Into the Gap, but it surprisingly didn't sell as well.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  As the Twins began to work on their follow-up album to Into the Gap later in '84 with their producer Alex Sadkin, they recorded this song and got it issued out as a single in the UK. It did well getting to #13. However, prior to working on other songs for the album, the band decided they wanted to produce it on their own and split with Sadkin. They got the album set to go with a new single ready for release titled "Roll Over," but then Twins member Tom Bailey became ill and got sidelined. Due to that, the single was cancelled and the album put on hold. During the break the trio then decided that perhaps they needed some outside assistance and was able to secure in-demand producer Nile Rodgers. Rodgers and Bailey then co-produced the album and in doing so they revamped "Lay Your Hands on Me." This second version of the song was the one released as a single in the US. It was not reissued in the UK. Instead, another track was pushed out titled "Don't Mess with Doctor Dream," which got to #15. Their previous choice of a single, "Roll Over," was reworked and was included on the US version of the album. It did not appear in the UK version, which featured the song "Breakaway" instead.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

"Born in East L.A." by Cheech & Chong

Song#:  2474
Date:  09/21/1985
Debut:  73
Peak:  48
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Comedy, Novelty, Parody

Pop Bits:  The comedy duo of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong had been performing their stoner standup routines since the late 60s. As their popularity grew, the branched out to TV, records, and movies, including their 1979 cult classic film Up in Smoke. Their comedy albums resulted in six Grammy nominations including one win for Best Comedy Recording (for 1973's Los Cochinos) and a Top 10 hit with 1974's "Earache My Eye" (#9). In the 80s, they focused less on recording comedy albums, but they did get one out in 1985 titled Get Out of My Room. It was released around the same time as a mockumentary-style video of the same name that featured tracks from the album. One of the songs they recorded was this parody of Bruce Springsteen's hit "Born in the U.S.A." It was issued out as a single and nearly cracked the Pop Top 40, thanks in part to the song's associated video that got heavily played on MTV. The popular track would earn the duo their sixth and final (to-date) Grammy nod for Best Comedy Recording. It would also be their last single to reach the Pop chart. By this point in time the duo was experiencing some turmoil and it wasn't long before they separated and went their own ways. Later in the 90s, the pair reconciled and began making appearances together and have even done tours.

ReduxReview:  I have to admit that I didn't much care for Cheech & Chong. They did their characters well, but for me the whole stoner thing quickly wore thin. They had a couple of other routines that were solid like "Earache My Eye" and "Sister Mary Elephant," but a lot of their stuff I didn't relate to, especially when the movies came out. I actually like both of them better now as actors on their own. This particular song had a good premise and a funny video. Like most novelties tunes, I'd rather watch the video than just hear the record. One listen and I'm pretty much done. However, I think Marin had a good idea here and apparently others though so to and it soon became a movie (see below).

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The duo basically wrote all of their material together, but this is one song where Marin wrote all the lyrics on his own (music was obviously by Springsteen). After the split, Marin got an offer to turn the song into a full-length feature film - without Chong. With their partnership already soured and nearly over, Marin decided to take on the project. He would write, direct and star in Born in East L.A., which was released to mixed reviews in the summer of '87. It initially did well its first week out, but then quickly died off. Yet when its run was done, it ended up being a small money maker for the studio.


Monday, July 23, 2018

"Hard Times for Lovers" by Jennifer Holliday

Song#:  2473
Date:  09/21/1985
Debut:  83
Peak:  69
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Holliday's debut album Feel My Soul yielded the #2 R&B ballad "I Am Love" (#45 Pop). Produced by Maurice White, the LP was a solid seller that gave her the opportunity to record a follow-up. This time around Holliday worked with a variety of producers and came up with Say You Love Me. To introduce the album, this first single was issued out. It got an okay response at R&B getting to #17, but it just couldn't make much headway at Pop or Dance (#26). The results left album sales lagging and it could only manage a #34 showing at R&B while not even making the Pop Top 100.

ReduxReview:  Of course, Holliday's vocals are impeccable and she is what makes the song a success. However, it is more of an album track than a single contender. The chorus just meanders about and never really catches fire in a hooky way. It's also halfway between a mid-tempo quiet storm jam and a dance tune, which sometimes confuses people because do you slow or fast dance to it? I think it is a solid, well-written song expertly performed by Holliday, but it wasn't nearly strong enough to make it on the charts.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Lotti Golden and Richard Scher. Golden had started writing a songs at an early age and by the time she was in her late teens she had signed her first publishing deal. Songs that she wrote from her experiences living in New York's East Village got the attention of Bob Crewe (producer/writer for The Four Seasons and others). Crewe would producer her 1969 debut album for Atlantic Records titled Motor-Cycle. While the album didn't take off, Golden got good notices and was even featured in a Newsweek article alongside Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro about new female singer/songwriters. A follow-up album failed to do anything so Golden moved on to music journalism before returning to songwriting and production work in the 80s. One of her biggest hits as a songwriter came in 1989 when her co-write "With Every Beat of My Heart" became a #5 hit for Taylor Dayne. Other artists like Diana Ross, Celine Dion, and Al Green have recorded her songs.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

"Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2472
Date:  09/21/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's debut album I Wear the Face wasn't a hit, but it did get them noticed and the #57 showing of their single "Hunters of the Night" was enough to keep their label interested for a second album. The band, led by Richard Page, then came up with Welcome to the Real World and this track was issued out as the first single. It made a steady climb up the Pop chart until finally reaching the #1 spot for a couple of weeks. The song would also get to #3 at AC and #4 Pop. Grammy folks took notice of the hit and the band was given a nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  This moody song has a mystical aura about it that hits just the right tone thanks to strongly written verses and a hooky chorus. The production is top-notch and it still sounds excellent even today. It was a bit risky to push this dark tune out as the first single. It seems like it would have been safer to make it single #2, which is what the label wanted, but apparently the band lobbied hard for it to go out first and the gamble paid off. The song stood out on radio and it got people's attention, as did the MTV video with all of its bird imagery. It certainly caught my ear back then and I still love to hear this every now and then.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The lyrics for this song were inspired by a novel by Lebanese-American poet/writer Khalil Gibran. His 1912 work Broken Wings was a tragic love story set it Beirut. It was written eleven years before his most famous work, 1923's The Prophet. It's been said that Paul McCartney also used Khalil's Broken Wings as inspiration for his song "Blackbird" from The Beatles' self-titled 1968 album (aka The White Album). While the themes in McCartney's song could also apply to Khalil's work and "broken wings" is in the song lyrics, it seems plausible that McCartney could have had the book in mind at the time, but he has never confirmed the rumor. However, both "Blackbird" and Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings" do contain the same lyric line of "take these broken wings and learn to fly."