Saturday, September 8, 2018

"Tonight She Comes" by The Cars

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2521
Date:  11/02/1985
Debut:  59
Peak:  7
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Cars were at an all-time peak. Their album Heartbeat City was a quadruple-platinum seller that boasted five Top 40 entries including two Top 10's. It was their fifth album and by this point it seemed like an opportune time to issue out a hits compilation. Greatest Hits was assembled and it included their main hits plus a couple of extras which included this brand new track. It was issued out as a single to promote the album and it made a beeline to the top of the Rock chart. It crossed over to Pop and easily found its way to #7. It would be the band's final single to reach the Pop Top 10. The Greatest Hits album would end up selling over 6 million copies making it their best-selling album alongside their 1978 self-titled debut, which was also certified 6x platinum.

ReduxReview:  I didn't pay a lot of attention to this song when it came out. I think I was just kind of done with The Cars after Heartbeat City ran its course. However, now I find it to be one of their better songs and an overlooked single in their catalog. It is unmistakably a Cars track. The percolating rhythm, concise and hooky pop writing, and Ric Ocasek's droll voice were all trademarks of the band. When they got the formula right, as they did with the tune, they made ear-resisible candy-coated pop/rock confections. This one may not be as tasty as some of their classics, but it's still pretty good.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  All the songs on the band's Greatest Hits album ended up on the US Pop chart (all reached #41 or better) except for one. The title track to their LP Heartbeat City, which was not issued as a single in the US, was included instead of their #20 "Hello Again" or key rock radio tracks like "You're All I Got Tonight." It was an odd inclusion since all the other songs on the albums were considered hits. One potential reason for its inclusion could be that it was released as a single in some countries including the UK where it got to #78. Because of that, it might have included as a possible single candidate for the Greatest Hits album. Whatever the reason, it was still an odd choice since the band had amassed 13 Pop chart entries along with 3 addition Rock radio airplay tracks, which was plenty to choose from for a hits compilation.


Friday, September 7, 2018

"Walk of Life" by Dire Straits

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2520
Date:  11/02/1985
Debut:  61
Peak:  7
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  While Dire Straits had enough fans in the US to sell a few gold and platinum albums, their popularity wasn't necessarily widespread. That changed when "Money for Nothing," the first single from their fifth album Brothers in Arms, became a big #1 smash. That hit would help propel the album to #1 for a nine week stay. Also lending a hand was this second single that wound its way into the Pop Top 10. It would be the first time that the band was able to land two Top 10 hits from one album. The track would also get to #6 at Rock while becoming their first to reach the Top 10 at AC (#4).

ReduxReview:  I've never liked this ode to London tube buskers. I found both the honking keyboard lick and Mark Knopfler's "woo-hoos" utterly annoying. It was a goofy, dorky little ditty that I promptly ignored. However, I have to give credit to Knopfler for writing a song that is near perfect for a mass audience. The jangly, old-style rock 'n' roll rhythms, the song references, the memorable keyboard melody, and the "do the walk of life" hook were irresistible to a wide variety of folks, especially nostalgic AC listeners. He got it just right. However, that doesn't mean I have to like it (which I still don't...).

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The first single released from the album in Europe was "So Far Away." It was a middling hit in most countries including the UK where it got to #20. The b-side to that single was "Walk of Life." After Brothers in Arms became a major success, "Walk of Life" was later released as the fourth single. It would end up hitting #2 in the UK making it their biggest hit along with 1982's "Private Investigations," which also reached #2. Apparently, the band's producer did not want the song to be included on the album, but he got outvoted by the band members and the track was included in the lineup.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

"Burning Heart" by Survivor

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2519
Date:  11/02/1985
Debut:  64
Peak:  2
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Survivor experienced a career revival with their fifth album Vital Signs. Featuring new lead vocalist Jimi Jamison, the LP spawned a pair of Top 10's including the #4 "The Search Is Over." The boost in popularity came at the right time as Sylvester Stallone came knocking on their door to write a song for his film Rocky IV. Survivor had their biggest hit with the #1 "Eye of the Tiger," which they did for Rocky III, so it seemed logical for Stallone to ask for another one. The band's main songwriters, Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik, started working on a song as soon as they read the script. The tune would become the theme song to the movie and it was issued out as a single. Lightning pretty much struck twice for the band as their second Rocky theme song nearly got to the #1 spot. In doing so, it became their second biggest hit after "Eye of the Tiger."

ReduxReview:  Survivor could have easily done a retread of "Eye of the Tiger," but they didn't. Although this has a similar anthem-like feel that fits the Rocky character, it doesn't mimic their previous hit and it stands on its own. It also helped that the band was popular once again with the platinum Vital Signs. While it may not be as iconic as "Eye of the Tiger," this song held its own and it kept the band's streak of hits going.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Apparently, the original title of the song was "The Unmistakable Fire," which was the chorus' final hook line. However, Stallone didn't much care for the title and wanted a change. The original chorus to the song began "In the human heart, just about to burst." Sullivan suggested they change "human" to "burning" and then use "Burning Heart" as the title. Peterik wasn't digging it too much because another band, Vandenberg, had a recent hit by the same title (#39 Pop/#5 Rock) and it reminded him of someone having heartburn. Yet, he relented and the change was made, which seemed to appease Stallone.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"Sun City" by Artists United Against Apartheid

Song#:  2518
Date:  11/02/1985
Debut:  74
Peak:  38
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock, Charity

Pop Bits:  After E Street member Steven Van Zandt visited South Africa and witnessed the racial segregation that was happening at the time, known as apartheid, he wanted to try and do something to bring more attention to the situation. It was proposed that perhaps he do a song along the lines of "We Are the World," but one that was more political and not necessarily related to a charitable cause. Working with journalist Danny Schechter and producer Arthur Baker, Van Zandt wrote the song "Sun City," which was a resort that catered to rich white people. Big name music acts were coaxed to play there even though the UN had in place a cultural boycott for South Africa (obviously there's a lot more to all this, which I can't recount here - just look it up and get some history). Van Zandt then began asking other musicians to join in on the recording of the song with the stipulation that they would never play at Sun City. Around 40 artists decided to participate including Bruce Springsteen, U2, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Keith Richards, Miles Davis, and Bonnie Raitt. A video would be made for the song along with a short documentary film on the making. Proceeds from the song would benefit several anti-apartheid organizations. When the song was released in the US, it didn't do all that well and it just scratched the Top 40. It did better in other areas of the world hitting the Top 10 in some countries. When it was all done with, Van Zandt's project netted about $1 million. It was a small fraction of what USA for Africa pulled in, but it certainly brought attention to apartheid, which would finally come to an end in 1994.

ReduxReview:  I think this song did a fine job bringing light to apartheid. Frankly, at the time I had no clue as to what was going on, so this song did make me aware and pay more attention to the situation. Although the song did have a tough time due to lack of airplay (see below), I still think it would have been a struggle to get further up the chart because it didn't have that mass appeal sound like "We Are the World." This was a brash synth-rock tune with a political message and that was going to be a difficult sell to a general audience. The song itself is pretty solid. Van Zandt did a nice job creating a hooky anthem. If he had just written this as a regular, non-political song with other words and recorded it himself, he still might have walked away with a decent chart entry.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In addition to the song, an album was also culled for the project. It included two versions of "Sun City" plus new topically related songs from Peter Gabriel ("No More Apartheid" with L. Shakar) and Bono ("Silver and Gold" with Keith Richards and Ron Wood). The LP would make it to #31 on the chart, but failed to reach gold level sales. Unlike other benefit singles where the charities still exist and the songs get revised by another generation of artists, after the end of apartheid this song disappeared and the album went out of print. It is now more of a historical relic of a bygone era.  2) One reason cited that the song didn't do so well was because a large chunk of US radio stations decided not to play the track. Because it was a political protest tune, many stations didn't want to be associated with anything political in nature and refused to air the song.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

"Freedom" by The Pointer Sisters

Song#:  2517
Date:  11/02/1985
Debut:  78
Peak:  59
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The first single from the Sisters' album Contact, "Dare Me," didn't perform quite as well as they wanted when it got caught in the #11 position at Pop. It did a little better at R&B getting to #6, but it wasn't a smash hit like the singles from their previous album, the blockbuster Break Out. This second single got issued out, but it pretty much flopped. It couldn't get inside the top half of the Pop chart while only making #25 at R&B. It did slightly better at AC reaching #16, but it certainly wasn't a hit. While the popularity of the group still made the album a platinum seller, it wasn't nearly as successful as the triple platinum Break Out.

ReduxReview:  By this point in time, the Sisters were not known for doing R&B-leaning ballads. Their dance-pop had taken over the airwaves for the past couple of years and that's what folks were still expecting. So pushing out this track was a definite change of pace. The idea of putting one out wasn't a bad idea at all, it was just that this wasn't the right one. The tune's quiet, rolling rhythm and unhurried melody wasn't strong enough to grab a big audience. It was a nice album closer and the Sisters sounded great, but it was not worthy of being a single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1984, composer David McHugh wrote the score to the Robin Williams film Moscow on the Hudson. In addition to the instrumental music, McHugh also wrote several songs for the film including "Freedom." That original version of the song was performed by Chaka Khan. Khan also sang the song "Starting Over Again" for the soundtrack. Neither song was released as a single. The Pointer Sisters would then later pick up "Freedom" and record it for their album. McHugh would continue to write music for films, TV shows, commercials, and stage musicals.


Monday, September 3, 2018

"Count Me Out" by New Edition

Song#:  2516
Date:  11/02/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  51
Weeks:  15
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This Boston vocal group were riding high thanks to their crossover hit "Cool It Now" (#4 Pop, #1 R&B), which led to their second album going double platinum. However, they also found themselves in debt to MCA after the label dug the boys out of a bad deal they had with a production company. Because of that, they had to do what they could to work off the debt and a step towards that was this third album. Hoping for another big hit, they released this first single. While it was another winner at R&B getting to #2, it didn't do as well at Pop and it faltered just shy of the halfway point on the chart. Still, their popularity along with a couple more R&B Top 10's pushed the album to platinum. It was a significant drop from their previous album and wouldn't be enough to get the boys out of hock with MCA just yet.

ReduxReview:  I guess if it ain't broke, don't fix it. This song was by the same writers as "Cool It Now" and it basically sounds like a retread of that tune. It's like "Cool It Now, Pt. 2." Pop listeners weren't buying into it and the song fizzled. The song is just as good as "Cool It Now," but since it offered absolutely nothing new from the group (except maybe deeper voices), it played like a knock-off. It was a move that cost the band a chunk of their audience, but they still remained popular enough to get a platinum LP.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  It was around this time that group member Bobby Brown was ousted from the group. A number of factors played a role in the decision including Brown not getting the lead vocal parts (the label preferred Ralph Tresvant leading the group), breaking out into his own dancing at shows, overtaking lead vocals from other members, missing plane flights, and feeling that the band was not making any money. There were arguments within the group and soon the label and their management decided to step in and force the other members to vote Brown out because he wasn't fitting in and was harming the image of the group. There are various stories on how this all happened, but in the end Brown left and went on to start a solo career. By the time the video for this song was being made, Brown was gone. He doesn't appear in the video and any featured parts he sang were lip synced by Ricky Bell. Brown would later rejoin the group in 1996 and then again in 2005.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

"Election Day" Arcadia

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2515
Date:  10/26/1985
Debut:  46
Peak:  6
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  When Duran Duran took a break, the members splintered off into two side project bands. John and Andy Taylor developed The Power Station ("Some Like It Hot," #6 Pop), while Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes created Arcadia, with Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor working in the studio with them (Taylor did some work with The Power Station as well). Arcadia, along with Alex Sadkin, produced the band's debut album So Red the Rose. This first single was pushed out ahead of the album and after a high debut it headed right for the Top 10. It was also a slight entry at Dance getting to #29. While the album only peaked at #23, it would still be a platinum seller, as was The Power Station's debut, which made it to #6.

ReduxReview:  Well, like a lot of Duran Duran songs, the lyrics here make zero sense. Perhaps it does to someone, but not me. Plus, the title of the song vs. the lyrics have always bugged me. The song is "Election Day," yet in the chorus Le Bon sings "re-election day." He does say "election day" at one point, but not in the chorus. I guess the title was just better without the "re." Despite all that, I liked this song when it came out. Unlike the rock of The Power Station, this one didn't veer too far from in the Duran Duran lane and it could have easily been one of that band's tracks. The addition of Jones (see below) was terrific and she made the most out of the indecipherable lyrics. Neither of the albums from the two offshoot bands were all that good, yet I'd say Arcadia's was a hair better due to some experimenting they did with a couple of tracks. It made the album more interesting than the bland rock track from The Power Station (with the exception of their two Top 10 hits).

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The center section of this song featured a spoken word passage. That part was done by singer/model/actress Grace Jones. The pairing of Jones with the band most likely came about due to the James Bond film A View to a Kill. Jones co-starred in the film while Duran Duran supplied the hit #1 theme song. Jones was at hear peak around this time period. Her recording career that was doing quite well with 1981's Nightclubbing hitting #32 and her 1986 song "Slave to the Rhythm" hitting #1 Dance. She also co-starred in several hit films including A View to a Kill, Conan the Destroyer, Vamp, and Boomerang. She even appeared in Pee Wee Herman's 1988 TV Special Christmas at Pee Wee's Playhouse where she did her version of "The Little Drummer Boy."