Saturday, August 25, 2018

"Home Sweet Home" by Mötley Crüe

Song#:  2507
Date:  10/26/1985
Debut:  95
Peak:  89
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Heavy Metal

Pop Bits:  The Crüe found themselves more in the mainstream thanks to their #16 remake of Brownsville Station's 1973 hit "Smokin' in the Boys Room." It was the first single from the band's third album Theater of Pain. To follow it up, they released this power ballad track. It became their highest peaking song to-date on the Rock chart getting to #5, but the heavier song just couldn't break through at Pop like the more radio-friendly "Smokin'" and it stalled near the bottom of the chart. But the two singles sent the album to #6 - their first Top 10 - and eventually it would sell over four million copies.

ReduxReview:  Not being a fan of Mötley Crüe at the time, it was pretty much a done deal that I wasn't going to give this song much attention. But then the incessantly played video on MTV started to get my attention and I discovered that this was a damn good song. Apparently, the band's label hated it and didn't want it on the album but finally relented after the band threatened to walk. Though not a Pop hit, it certainly was at Rock and on MTV and it helped to sell a lot of albums. The song has become a signature tune for the Crüe and deservedly so. It was fitting that when the band played their career closing show on New Year's Eve in 2015, this was their final song. The tune wouldn't make me a fan of the band, but it's one from the band that I truly enjoy and appreciate.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) While the song wasn't a hit on the Pop chart when it was initially released, it did make the Top 40 later in 1991. For their first hits compilation, Decade of Decadence, this song was remixed and issued out as a single. Although it only got to #41 at Rock, the song finally was able to grab a Pop audience and it reached #37 on the chart.  2) Around this time MTV had daily request chart that allowed callers to request their favorite video. The one for this song made it to #1 and ended up staying in that spot for three months. With requests for the video not slowing down, MTV thought enough was enough an decided to create a rule for the request chart where a video was only eligible to be on the chart for a 30-day period. It was unofficially called the "Crüe Rule."  3) This song would be covered by many artists, but only one was able to get the song on the Pop chart. In 2009, former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood recorded a version of the song that was used as the show's farewell theme when a contestant was sent home. Pushed out as a single, the song made it to #21 on the Pop chart while also getting to #52 at Country. Speaking of the Country chart, singer Justin Moore covered the song as a duet with Crüe member Vince Neil for the 2014 album Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Mötley Crüe. The duet would get to #28 on the Country chart.


Friday, August 24, 2018

"Sleeping Bag" by ZZ Top

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2506
Date:  10/19/1985
Debut:  49
Peak:  8
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Blues-Rock

Pop Bits:  After seven albums of Texas blues rock, five of which went gold, this trio broke through to the mainstream with their eighth album Eliminator. Boosted by a series of popular MTV videos and their first Top 10 hit, the #8 "Legs," the band was at an all-time high. To follow up that massive success, the band went back in the studio with their long-time producer Bill Ham and knocked out Afterburner. This first single would easily find its way to the top of the Rock chart while becoming the band's second Pop Top 10. The hit would help the album reach #4, which would be their best showing on the chart. However, in the long run Eliminator would sell over 10 million copies while Afterburner would sell half as much at 5 million.

ReduxReview:  ZZ Top hit on a winning formula with Eliminator by pushing their blues rock into the 80s with groovy synths. For the new album, they continued down the same path and even added a few more synth textures along the way. It seemed folks were still buy what they were selling and sent this track into the Top 10. Another heavily played MTV video didn't hurt either. For me, this was just a retread of "Legs" and I didn't find it all that interesting. I certainly can't blame them for sticking with what made them hugely successful. It was the right move to make at the time. However, I quickly got tired of that signature sound.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The cover of Afterburner had artwork that featured the now-famous Eliminator car, but this time around it was portrayed as more of an outer space vehicle. The video for this song featured the original Eliminator as their previous ones did, but in this storyline the car ends up getting destroyed in a fight with a couple of bulldozers and is laid to rest. Yet the crafty ZZ Top guys bring the car back to life but this time as a futuristic flying machine and the guys ride it off into the sunset. The space traveling Eliminator reappears in the video for the album's third single, "Rough Boy."


Thursday, August 23, 2018

"Alive and Kicking" by Simple Minds

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2505
Date:  10/19/1985
Debut:  52
Peak:  3
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the worldwide success of their #1 hit "Don't You (Forget About Me)" from the soundtrack to The Breakfast Club, Simple Minds set out to record their eighth album, Once Upon a Time. Wanting to distance themselves away from the hit that made them famous, they decided to do a full album with famed rock producer Jimmy Iovine that completely ignored their now-signature tune. With a beefier, arena-ready sound that invited comparisons to U2, the band issued out this first single from the album. It would easily reach #2 at Rock while breaking into the Top 3 at Pop. It would also see a little time on the Dance chart getting to #25. The hit would help the album reach #10 and go gold. It would be their most successful studio album in the US.

ReduxReview:  I always thought it was kind of funny that the band disowned "Don't You (Forget About Me)," but then on their next LP they write and release this song which was not too far off from the sound and production of that hit. Luckily, it turned out to be a good tune and it ended up giving them a second Top 10. My favorite part was always the quiet piano break followed by the section featuring Robin Clark (see below) that led to the final chorus. It always irritated me that the radio version cut this part down quite a bit. The full album version is the only way to go. The band could have easily been a one-hit wonder if they had not been able to follow-up "Don't You," but this song made sure they were not (although their US charting career was short-lived).

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The female background vocalist on this track and others on the album is singer Robin Clark. When she was still a teenager, she joined a band that included a young Luther Vandross and her future husband, guitarist Carlos Alomar. All three performers would get a career boost when they appeared on David Bowie's 1975 album Young Americans. Clark continued to work with other artists and do jingle work as well. The spotlight was put back on her thanks to her appearance on the Simple Minds album. In addition to being featured on some tracks, Clark also appeared in two of the album's videos and she joined the band for their tour in support of the album.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

"Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" by Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin

Song#:  2504
Date:  10/19/1985
Debut:  62
Peak:  18
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Blue-Eyed Soul, R&B

Pop Bits:  Eurythmics' album Be Yourself Tonight contained a few tracks that featured guests like Stevie Wonder and Elvis Costello, but perhaps their biggest coup was securing Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin for this empowerment duet. It would be released as the third single from both Eurythmics' album and Franklin's Who's Zoomin' Who album, which was out at the same time. The song would peak inside the Pop Top 20 while getting to #10 at Dance and #66 R&B. It would be a bigger hit in the UK reaching #9. The song would earn the artists a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. Although not a huge hit upon initial release, the song has had a long-lasting impact and stands alongside other popular empowerment songs past and present, including Franklin's own 1967 hit "Respect."

ReduxReview:  I certainly thought this was a great song when I heard it on the album, but when it was selected for single release, I didn't know if it would do anything. I thought it might be too old school R&B for some and that the lyrics might alienate some folks (men! well, not us gay men, of course...) or even radio DJs. Yet it did pretty damn well and it even eclipsed their previous single by a few notches. It probably helped that Franklin had just made her fabulous comeback so the pairing was quite timely. It certainly has lasted over the years with the song being used in TV shows and movies. I'd even venture to guess that this is at or near the top of the list of Eurythmics songs to be licensed out for use. I think that I actually appreciate this song more now that I did when it first came out.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  When Annie Lennox came up with the first lyrics for the song, she had the idea that it should feature another woman's voice. After she and Dave Stewart completed the song, they approached Tina Turner to be Lennox's duet partner. Yet Turner ended up turning them down. Apparently, Turner thought the song to be too feminist and not something she wanted to do. So Lennox and Stewart next approached Aretha Franklin for the spot. She accepted and they all met up in Detroit to do the vocal work for the song. According to Lennox, the two divas didn't necessarily have an immediate connection with each other on first meeting. However, they got along just fine and mashed out the duet. Lennox also said in a Variety interview that Franklin asked for clarity on what the song was about as she thought it might have to do with masturbation. Lennox quickly put any fears Franklin had about the song to rest and explained the empowerment aspects of the lyrics.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

"America" by Prince & the Revolution

Song#:  2503
Date:  10/19/1985
Debut:  70
Peak:  46
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  Prince's album Around the World in a Day would be his second to hit #1 on the Pop chart thanks to two Top 10 hits including the #2 "Raspberry Beret." The LP was a purposely less-commercial effort than his blockbuster Purple Rain soundtrack, so the fact that it generated two hits and went double-platinum wasn't a bad result. To try and keep interest in the album going, it was decided that this third single would be issued out. The more funk-oriented track with its pointed lyrics about the state of the US at the time wasn't an airwaves winner and it stalled before it could reach the Pop Top 40. It was a minor entry on the R&B chart as well getting to #35. The song would be the last single released from the album in the US.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure why this song was chosen for single release over the more radio-friendly "Paisley Park." My guess is that since "Paisley Park" didn't do all that great overseas (see below), it was worth a shot to issue out "America" instead. It didn't work out. This just isn't a single-worthy track. However, with the album not boasting a booty of commercial fare, this was about the only track left that could be pushed out. I think "Paisley Park" would have done a little better, but neither were hits waiting to happen.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In Europe and other countries, this song was not issued as a single. Instead, the track "Paisley Park" would be released. For many countries it actually served as the LP's first single including the UK where it reached #18.  2) Prince recorded this song with his band the Revolution. When it was recorded, the song turned into a jam session that kept going on and on with various band members doing solos. They played the song for so long that the actual recording tape ran out after the 21 minute mark. Of course, the song was edited way down to an album version that was around 3:40, but the full jam version was made available on the 12" vinyl version of the single.


Monday, August 20, 2018

"Tarzan Boy" by Baltimora

One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  2502
Date:  10/19/1985
Debut:  80
Peak:  13
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Europop

Pop Bits:  Jimmy McShane was a failed West End (theater) wannabe who ended up moving back to his hometown in Ireland where he became an EMT. Then a friend from London got in contact with McShane and offered him a gig doing background vocals for Dee D. Jackson, an English singer who grabbed a couple of Italio-disco hits in the late 70s/early 80s. McShane accepted and on a tour stop in Italy he met producer Maurizio Bassi. Bassi was putting together a music project that he called Baltimora and wanted McShane to front the group. McShane took a chance on Bassi's project and the two began working together. In the spring of '85, this first single was issued out in Europe. It quickly became a hit reaching the Top 10's of many countries including #3 in the UK. With a hit on their hands, a deal was struck to get the tune released in the US. Following it's mid-October debut, the single would very slowly climb the chart for over four months before finally peaking just outside the Pop Top 10. It would also be a #6 Dance hit. With the song being so identifiable and it being their only significant hit, Baltimora would be tagged as a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those songs that is like a time warp. When I hear it, I'm immediately transported back to when this single came out. It makes me chuckle. As nostalgia, the song is fun. The Tarzan-yell chorus is ultra hooky and the goofy 80s production is spot-on. I bought into it back in the day, but the novelty of it certainly wore off quick. It's fun to hear as a lark now, but once I do, it can slip back into the time capsule for another decade.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) There was always speculation as to whether McShane did the lead vocals on this track and others from Baltimora's debut album Living in the Background. Many folks thought that Bassi had already recorded most of the project and was just looking for a face to sell it and the handsome McShane fit the bill. Indeed the lead vocals on this track don't sound like a young Irish lad and that seems to point to Bassi doing the voice work. Years later, another prominent Italio-disco producer, Tom Hooker, confirmed that Bassi did the vocals while McShane served as the public front for the "band."  2) This song got a second life in 1993. That year, the chorus of the song was used in a commercial for Listerine Cool Mint mouthwash. It was an animated ad that was done by Pixar. Then, the song appeared in the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. With interest in the old hit growing, a remix of the song was done and issued out as a single. It ended up peaking at #51 on the Pop chart.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

"Hold Me" by Laura Branigan

Song#:  2501
Date:  10/19/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  82
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Branigan's first three albums each contained a lead off single that went into the Top 10, but that streak stopped with her fourth album Hold Me. The first single from that LP, "Spanish Eddie," coudn't find an audience and it stopped at #40 on the Pop chart. Hoping to turn things around, this second single was released. Sadly, it did even worse spending a month at the bottom of the Pop chart while only getting to a minor #39 at Dance. With those results, Hold Me became Branigan's worst performing effort to-date only getting to #71 and failing to reach gold or platinum like her previous three albums.

ReduxReview:  While I think this album-opening track was a better single than "Spanish Eddie," it still wasn't a strong contender. The tune's darker, more mature sound just didn't have the same hooky allure as her other hits. Yet I do think that if this had some solid promotion behind it and a good video (none was filmed for it, which didn't help), this song could have done better than "Spanish Eddie" as a first single. Unfortunately, as a second single following up a weak first one, nobody paid attention.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The closing track on the Hold Me album was "When the Heat Hits the Street." The song got picked up by Chrysler and was used in commercials that introduced their new sports car, the Laser. The tune was written by Linda Schreyer and Cappy Capossela. Capossela (real name Carolee Capossela) would co-author a book in 1985 on how to organize a group of people to help take care of someone that is seriously ill. This was after she went through the experience of helping a friend dying of cancer. Later in 2002, Capossela's father was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. As she was helping him, she then discovered she also had a brain tumor. Her father died in October of that year and sadly Capossela would then pass away a mere 12 hours after him. Her book is still being published and is considered by many organizations as an essential tool in caregiving.


"Tears Are Falling" by Kiss

Song#:  2500
Date:  10/19/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  51
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  The 80s didn't start out all that great for Kiss. They experienced a sales drop with their first three albums of the decade and they were going through a series of new lead guitarists after the departure of original member Ace Frehley. They rebounded with 1983's Lick It Up and 1984's Animalize with both LPs returning them to platinum status. Hoping to keep up the momentum, the band got back in the studio to record their next effort, Asylum. This track from the album was pushed out as the first single and it did well at Rock getting to #20. It was then able to cross over to the Pop chart where it just missed out on the Top 50. However, it would be the only single released from the album and with the shortened promotional window, the LP's sales lagged behind their previous two efforts. It was able to reach #20 and go gold, but it was another slight hiccup for the band who were now trying to navigate their way through the field of glam/hair metal bands of the day.

ReduxReview:  This is one of the band's most radio-ready commercial efforts they put out in the 80s. I liked it from the first listen and had thought this might finally get them their first Top 40 entry since 1979. Alas, it fell slightly short, but the dark rock tune is still a memorable highlight from this time in the band's career.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Following original lead guitarist Ace Frehley's departure, the band went through two replacements. Vinnie Vincent was first followed by Mark St. John. Unfortunately, after recording one album with them St. John developed arthritis and had to quit. With the position open once again, the band decided to bring on Bruce Kulick. Kulick had previously worked with the band ghosting some guitar work in the studio for Animalize. He got involved with Kiss mainly thanks to his brother Bob, who had been doing some side work for the band since the early 70s. Bruce Kulick became a permanent member of the band in time for the Asylum album. He remained with them for twelve years, which was the longest tenure of a non-original member. Kulick and St. John were also the only two members of Kiss to never have donned the band's famous make-up look. Both came along after the "unmasking" part of their career.