Saturday, September 15, 2018

"That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne & Friends

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2528
Date:  11/09/1985
Debut:  67
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Charity

Pop Bits:  Warwick and her main songwriter/producer Burt Bacharach hadn't worked together in over a decade due to a falling out that they had. But time heals wounds and the pair got back to working together for the 1985 theme song to the TV show Finder of Lost Loves. With their relationship rekindled, the pair (along with Bacharach's wife at the time Carole Bayer Sager) decided to work on songs for Warwick's next album. This specific tune got overlooked the first time around (see below), yet after hearing it Warwick wanted to record it, but not by herself. She wanted it as a duet with Stevie Wonder. After Warwick recorded her part, Wonder was brought into the studio. For his visit, Bayer Sager invited a friend of hers to watch - Elizabeth Taylor. With Taylor present, conversations started about her work with AIDS charities. Warwick was sensitive to the issue wanted to bring more attention to the disease and those affected, especially since at the time it was still something not widely talked about as there were stigmas attached. Bayer Sager then suggested that perhaps the song could be a charity single to benefit AmFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research). The idea was put in motion and they decided to bring on two more star vocalists to help with the sing. R&B superstar Gladys Knight signed on to be the third vocalist and the fourth person to come on board was Elton John. All the vocal parts were recorded separately and then stitched together in the studio. When finished, the song was issued out as a single. It would end up hitting #1 at Pop, R&B, and AC. It would also go on to win two Grammys - one for Song of the Year and one for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. Its four weeks at #1 helped the tune become the #1 charting song at Pop for 1986. In the end, the song would raise over $3 million for AmFAR. Although all four vocal parts were recorded separately, Warwick, Wonder, Knight, and John got together to film the song's video.

ReduxReview:  This was the perfect song for the perfect cause done by the perfect stars and released at the perfect time. The lyrics were just right and gave a supportive message, which is what was truly needed at this point in time. The song and its celebrities did a lot to bring attention and knowledge to the AIDS crisis and helped to erase some of the horrible negativity and neglect that was going on. For that, this single certainly gets a 10+ rating. Looking at just the song itself, it's well-written and sentimental without being too saccharine. Yet had Warwick recorded this as a solo song and released it as a single without the charity aspect, would it have done as well? Very doubtful. I might have even listened a couple of times and then ignored it. The tune might have scored well at AC, but I don't think it would have been a blockbuster #1. It was really the star power brought to the song by all four vocalists along with the cause that made it work.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was originally written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager for the 1982 film Night Shift starring Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton. The song would server as the closing credits' theme. It was performed by rock superstar Rod Stewart. The track would not be issued out as a single. The film was critically well-received but only did moderate business at the box office.  2) The original fourth voice on this song was Luther Vandross. Although at the top of the wish list for the last vocalist was Elton John, those involved didn't know if they could get him to come on board. So they first decided to do it with Vandross, who came in and recorded his part. Yet when it was all done, Bacharach and Sager just though the song still needed a bigger star that could provide a standout vocal. When they finally reached out to John, he accepted and participated in the project.


Friday, September 14, 2018

"Everyday" by James Taylor

Song#:  2527
Date:  11/09/1985
Debut:  79
Peak:  61
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The early 80s were rough for James Taylor. His marriage to Carly Simon ended, he was battling a drug addiction, and he was grappling with depression. By the time 1985 rolled around, Taylor was considering retirement from music. But then he accepted a gig at Brazil's Rock in Rio festival and after getting a huge reaction from a massive 300k crowd, Taylor rethought his plans. Energized by the performance, a cleaned-up Taylor began writing songs again and went into the studio to record his eleventh album, That's Why I'm Here. Despite having written the majority of songs on the album, this remake (see below) was selected to be the first single. Of course the tune was embraced by AC and it peaked at #3 on that chart. At Pop, Taylor's soft rockin' sound wasn't all that hip in the mid-80s and the song fizzled in the bottom half of the chart. Two more singles would be issued from the album and while they would not reach the Pop chart, the tunes would make it to the AC Top 10. That support would help Taylor get his seventh platinum album.

ReduxReview:  Taylor was really smart with this album. He could have easily done what some of his contemporaries attempted to do by updating his sound and trying to fit in with current trends, but he didn't. Taylor stayed true to who he was as a songwriter/artist and he did an album that wasn't out of line with most any other in his catalog. It paid off quite well with big support from his fans and from AC radio. So while I totally respect that, I just wasn't a fan of his music. I liked some of his 70s hits, but other than that I've never had much of a connection to his tunes. This little ditty is no exception. It's a simple remake of a minor pop classic that really doesn't do anything for Taylor or the song. It's an inoffensive cover that's as comfy as an easy chair and is perfect to hear while doing crafts. While there is nothing really wrong with that, it just wasn't my cup of tea (which would actually go well with this song - a little chamomile, a lovely cookie, and James Taylor).

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally co-written and performed by Buddy Holly. Holly's 1957 version would end up being the b-side to his big #3 hit "Peggy Sue." Despite being a b-side, the song has become one of Holly's most recognizable recordings and it has been covered by many artists. Besides Taylor, the only other artist to hit the Pop chart with the song was John Denver, whose 1972 version reached #81 (#21 AC).  2) Taylor was so taken with his experience at the Rock in Rio festival that he wrote a song about it. "Only a Dream in Rio" would be included as a track on the album. Taylor sings in both English and Portuguese. He had a portion of the lyrics translated into Portuguese by Jim Maraniss, a professor at Amherst College.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

"Goodbye" by Night Ranger

Song#:  2526
Date:  11/09/1985
Debut:  80
Peak:  17
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's third album, 7 Wishes, would be a #10 platinum seller thanks to three Pop Top 20 hits including this third single. It made it to #17, which was just a couple notches higher than their previous single "Four in the Morning (I Can't Take It Anymore)." The track would be their seventh Rock Top 20 reaching #16. Night Ranger's career would be at an all-time high with the 7 Wishes album. Unfortunately, good things often come to an end and this song would be the band's last to reach the Pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  This album closer was a good choice for a third single. It had a nice melodies throughout and I liked the fake ending followed by the final kick from the band. The song has a bit of a modern country feel to it and I'm surprised a country artist didn't pick this up to record. I'm sure it would have been a hit. It was a missed opportunity for some country artist.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  A track from 7 Wishes was recorded and used for a soundtrack album prior to its inclusion on the album. The song "Interstate Love Affair" was used in the 1984 film Teachers. It was also included on the film's associated soundtrack. However, the song was not issued as a single. Three other songs would be pushed out as singles instead including Bob Seger's #17 "Understanding" and 38 Special's #25 "Teacher, Teacher." These two songs helped sell the soundtrack, which made it to #34.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

"Small Town Girl" by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band

Song#:  2525
Date:  11/09/1985
Debut:  82
Peak:  64
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Cafferty and his crew made their first attempt to be on their own minus the attachments of the fictional movie band Eddie and the Cruisers with an actual debut album titled Tough All Over. At this point, the LP spawned a couple of Top 20-ish hits including the #18 "C-I-T-Y." This third single got issued out in hopes of another good chart showing, but it just couldn't quite make it. The tune stalled a third of the way up the Pop chart while missing the Rock chart completely. While it wasn't a good result, the previous two singles helped the album make a decent showing at #40.

ReduxReview:  This ol' school rock 'n' roll sound wasn't much different from what Huey Lewis & the News were doing with "If This Is It," "Stuck with You," and "Doing It All for My Baby." Yet the songs worked as hits for Lewis while this one could barely get out of the starting blocks. Certainly it helped that Lewis and his band had already established themselves in a big way, so they were quite the hot act, while Cafferty was trying to get out from under the shadow of Eddie and the Cruisers. However, what might have made the difference is the production and the way the song was performed. The song itself is just fine, but Cafferty and crew just seem to be along for the ride and the tune comes off a little lethargic; whereas Lewis' tracks were full of energy and smartly produced. This song might have had a better chance if they would have given it a little extra style and zip.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  As fictional movie bands go, Eddie and the Cruisers were certainly memorable, especially since the film was about them. There have been plenty of other fictional bands in film and in 2016 Rolling Stone assembled a list of the 25 best. Although the music was written and performed by Cafferty and his band, Eddie and the Cruisers ranked #18 on the list. Others that made the list were oddball ones like Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes (#6) from Star Wars (more widely known as The Cantina Band) and ones like The Blues Brothers (#2), where the actors created and actually performed as the band. The #1 spot was reserved for a band that, like The Blues Brothers, originated from a comedy sketch show. Spinal Tap was a fictional band made up of real actors/comedians (Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer) who played their own instruments and wrote their own songs. They would become the subject of the hit 1984 mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Face the Face" by Pete Townshend

Song#:  2524
Date:  11/09/1985
Debut:  87
Peak:  26
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  For his third solo effort of the decade, Townshend decided to do a concept album, his first since The Who's classic 1973's rock opera Quadrophenia. While that album and 1969's Tommy were sprawling double albums that were eventually made into films and stage shows, Townshend's White City: A Novel would be a lean nine track set that would be released in conjunction with a longform video titled White City: The Music Movie. The LP's story centers on life in a low-income housing area of London's White City district. To promote the disc, this first single was issued out. It was a hit at Rock getting to #3 while cracking the Pop Top 30. The album would also peak at #26 and eventually reach gold-level sales. Unfortunately, it would be Townshend's final single to reach the Pop chart. The LP would generate two other Rock chart entries including the #5 "Give Blood."

ReduxReview:  I can't honestly say what attracted me to this song back in the day. I wasn't a fan of The Who at the time and so Townshend would have been far off my radar. Yet there was something about the song's quick beat, horn section, and Townshend's delivery that got my attention and I bought the single. Strangely, I didn't purchase the album, which had a couple of other tasty tracks that I liked, especially "Give Blood." While the concept was kind of lost on me, I thought it was a solid effort from Townshend and it did end up making me buy his next concept LP (see below).

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Townshend's follow-up to this album was the 1989 musical adaptation of the 1968 Ted Hughes sci-fi novel The Iron Giant. This time around for the concept album, Townshend enlisted the help of other musicians such as his former Who band mates along with John Lee Hooker and Nina Simone. The album would spawn the #3 Rock hit "A Friend is a Friend," which was performed by Townshend. An actual stage version of the musical would be mounted in 1993 and it proved to be successful enough for Warner Bros. to want in and do a film version. By the time the animated film was completed in 1999, Townshend's songs were eliminated and the story altered. Despite the changes, Townshend was credited as an executive producer and paid accordingly. Directed by a pre-Pixar Brad Bird, the film was a critical success, but audiences stayed away. It was a box office dud at the time, but thanks to home video and cable, the movie did find an audience and it became a bit of a cult hit.


Monday, September 10, 2018

"The Big Money" by Rush

Song#:  2523
Date:  11/09/1985
Debut:  93
Peak:  45
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  The last time Rush was on the Pop chart was in 1982 with "New World Man," a #21 entry from their album Signals. It was at a time when the band began incorporating more synths and music technology into their prog rock. The album went to #10 and it encouraged the band to continue developing their new sound for the 80s. In order to do so, they thought it was time to part ways with their long-time producer Tom Brown, who had co-produced every Rush album with the band except for their 1974 debut. Wanting a fresh start, the band brought in Steve Lillywhite (U2) to co-produce, but then he dropped out to work with Simple Minds. After going through various candidates, they settled on Peter Henderson and recorded 1984's Grace Under Pressure. Despite not having any singles reach the Pop chart, the album got to #10 and went platinum thanks to the support of rock radio on a few tracks. Not happy with Henderson, they ditched him in favor of Peter Collins for their next LP Power Windows. Their evolution with synths continued and was on full display with this first single from the album. The song made it to #4 at Rock and then surprisingly did well on the Pop chart nearly getting into the Top 40. That result helped the album get to #10 (their third in a row to hit that spot) and go platinum. Unfortunately, it would be their final single to reach the Pop chart. Despite that, the band would continue to have hits at Rock grabbing fourteen Top 10's through to 2002 with four of them hitting #1. Rush would call it a day after a final tour in 2015.

ReduxReview:  Rush had been adding more layers of synths and effects ever since their classic 1981 LP Moving Pictures and it really exploded with Power Windows. The opening of this track sounds massive with the added layers of 80s technology. It sounded very regal and impressive at the time. The song itself is not necessarily pop radio fare, but the individual sections were quite hooky and when stitched together it created something that had a bit of commercial flare, which was not the norm for Rush. It did unexpectedly well on the Pop chart. The grand opening certainly drew me in and I liked Geddy Lee's spitting bass work on the track.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Over the years, Rush amassed 41 Juno nominations (Canada's equivalent of the Grammys). That has them tied for 5th on the list of acts with the most nominations. They would win 10 of the awards. While they would never win a Grammy, they were nominated seven times. In 2013, their career accomplishments and their musical influence got them inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

"Small Town" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2522
Date:  11/02/1985
Debut:  51
Peak:  6
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Mellencamp's eighth album Scarecrow got off to a solid start with the #1 Rock/#6 Pop hit "Lonely Ol' Night." Next up was this second single that would nearly top the Rock chart at #2. It would do the same business at Pop as "Lonely" did reaching the #6 spot while getting to #13 at AC. That result made Scarecrow Mellencamp's third album in a row to featured two Top 10 Pop singles. The album got close to the summit of the chart, but ended up having to settle for a #2 peak. Eventually, it would sell over 5 million copies, which was the same amount as his 1982 #1 breakthrough album American Fool.

ReduxReview:  If "Lonely Ol' Night" turned me back on to Mellencamp's music, then this song made me a diehard fan. The opening drums and guitar lick blasted through my speakers and I knew I was totally smitten when Mellencamp stated, "Well I was born in a small town." All this took place before the band really kicked it in. This instantly became my favorite Mellencamp song and it still remains at the top of the list. This song is a bit unusual for a pop hit because it doesn't have a chorus. It's all verses with a middle bridge and instrumental section. Yet the melody of the verses and guitar lines were strong enough to be memorable and hook listeners. Even all these years later, the song still moves me when I hear it. Sometimes I just rock out to it, other times it hits my emotions. I've never gotten tired of hearing it and that is one of the hallmarks of a truly great piece of music.


Trivia:  On the Scarecrow album, this song is preceded by what sounds like a snippet from an old 78 record with an older lady singing a song. Despite sounding old due to added effects, it was actually a recent recording. Earlier in 1985, Mellencamp recorded his grandmother Laura singing an old tune titled "In the Baggage Coach Ahead." That song was written by Gussie Davis in 1896 and it was considered a big hit at the time as it sold over one million copies of the sheet music (records weren't quite a thing yet). The song tells the story of a man riding a train with a young child. As everyone is going to sleep for the night, the child starts crying, which disturbs the other passengers. A few get angry about it and one tells him to take the child to its mother. However, the man can't as his wife is dead and her coffin is in the baggage coach. Realizing the situation, the passengers then become sympathetic and the man tells the story of he and his wife. Davis' song was apparently based on a true incident that was accounted and witnessed by a railroad porter. The story from the song went on to inspire a 1911 film short titled In the Baggage Coach Ahead.