Saturday, November 17, 2018

"King for a Day" by Thompson Twins

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2591
Date:  01/18/1986
Debut:  52
Peak:  8
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The trio's album Here's to Future Days got kicked off well thanks to the #6 hit "Lay Your Hands on Me." This second single would do nearly as well to become the Thompson Twins' third Top 10. It would also get to #13 at AC and #35 Rock. Despite the double Top 10's, the album would only get to #20 and go gold. This was a drop from their previous #10 platinum album Into the Gap. This single would end up being the trio's last to reach the US Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  I like this track and it has a hooky chorus, but I've always been surprised that it made the Top 10. I didn't think it was strong enough to get that far. Perhaps its associated MTV video helped to push it along. These days the song has all but disappeared. I liked the album quite a bit back in the day, but it wasn't loaded with potential singles. This one was the logical choice and it worked out well.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The album Here's to Future Days was the band's first to featured a cover tune. They decided to do a version of The Beatles' "Revolution." That 1968 track served as the b-side to their #1 hit "Hey Jude," yet plenty of airplay made the song chart on its own and it reached #12. The Thompson Twins' version was not issued as a single in the US, but it was in their UK homeland. It only got to #56 there. Prior to the album being released, the Thompson Twins performed on the US stage of Live Aid. They played their big #3 hit "Hold Me Now" along with "Revolution." For their performance of "Revolution," they were joined on stage by Steve Stevens (who played guitar on the album version of the song), Nile Rodgers (who produced the album), and Madonna (who basically just hung out on stage looking like she was thinking "what they hell am I doing here," shaking a tambourine, and singing a few "alright's.")


Friday, November 16, 2018

"These Dreams" by Heart

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2590
Date:  01/18/1986
Debut:  54
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Heart's self-titled album was a major comeback for them that already generated two Top 10 hits. The songs helped the LP climb to #1 late in '85 for a week making their only one to ever hit the top of the chart. Sales would continue to be strong into the early part of '86 thanks to this third single. The ballad would end up being the album's biggest hit reaching the top spot at Pop and AC while hitting #2 at Rock. After a decade of releasing singles, Heart finally earned their first #1 Pop chart hit.

ReduxReview:  This was certainly the coronation song for Heart's bid for mainstream success. I mean, the dang thing got to #1 at AC...AC - home turf of Air Supply! This certainly wasn't the Heart of "Barracuda" or "Crazy on You." The slick sounds and polished MTV look of the band didn't exactly thrill a chunk of their original fan base, but I think they chose songs that fit them well and this dreamy track was one of them. It's nearly a spiffed up, more commercialized cousin to their 1979 #34 song "Dog & Butterfly. It was a big hit then and it still continues to get played. I'd have to say that out of all their hits, I think I hear this one the most when I'm out n' about places.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was written by Martin Page and Bernie Taupin. The two composers had recently begun to work together and their first effort, "We Built This City," became a #1 hit for Starship. This song was their second co-write. Taupin wrote the lyrics and the original title was "Boys in the Mist." He wrote it with Stevie Nicks in mind and sent it over to her, but she didn't bite. Taupin then gave the lyrics to Page to see what he could do with it. Page made a few structural changes to the song and got the music done. Page had previously written a couple of songs for Kim Carnes and the thought the new tune, "These Dreams," would be a good fit for her. Carnes liked the song, but in the end rejected it because it just didn't fit her vocal range. It then got to Heart due to a mutual connection. Peter Wolf (not the J. Geils one) had produced and got a writing credit on "We Build this City" and one of his next gigs was playing on Heart's new album. When they were looking for tunes, Wolf played them Page's demo of "These Dreams." The band got it recorded and it then became their first #1 hit.  2) While Ann Wilson typically did most of the lead vocal work, her sister Nancy would usually sing lead on at least one track on their albums. For their self-titled LP, Nancy would take the lead on this song. The band thought that her voice would fit the song better than Ann's. It ended up being the first single released by the band with a lead vocal from Nancy.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

"Russians" by Sting

Song#:  2589
Date:  01/18/1986
Debut:  58
Peak:  16
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Sting's first solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, was a significant success that already boasted two Top 10 hits and the Top 20 third single "Love Is the Seventh Wave." To try and keep album sales going, this fourth single was issued out. The political-leaning track seemed to find an audience and it did well getting into the Top 20 just a notch higher than "Love Is the Seventh Wave." It was also able to get to #34 at Rock. The song extended the life of the album for a bit and eventually it would sell over three million copies.

ReduxReview:  I remember being flummoxed when I found out this song would be Sting's next single. Really? A political dirge concerning the Cold War? Then I was utterly flabbergasted when the dang thing made the Top 20. I can't remember exactly what was going on in the world at the time, but there must have been something that pushed this track along. Perhaps the video helped or that Sting was totally hot at the time and the Grammys were coming up (he had a few nominations). Or maybe folks just liked the message of the song. Whatever happened, I thought it was fine for an album track, but a bit heavy-handed as a single. It's one you never hear played now. Definitely a song of its time.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Sting wrote all of the songs on his debut album. However, this one had a bit of an assist from a person who had died back in 1953. When composing the song, Sting decided to incorporate the main theme from the "Romance" section of Sergei Prokofiev's 1934 Lieutenant Kij√© suite. The classical piece was actually music that was composed for the Russian film of the same name. Prokofiev was asked to do the score for the film, which was one of Russia's first with sound, and initially he said no. But after reading the story, he relented and decided to give it a go. The suite of music he created from the film ended up being one of the composer's most famous pieces. Sting was not the first modern pop/rock musician to utilize a part of the suite. In 1975, Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, issue a solo single titled "I Believe in Father Christmas." In between the song's verses, Lake incorporated a portion of the "Troika" melody from Prokofiev's suite. The song reached #2 on the UK chart and is a perennial favorite there.  2) Sting originally wanted to record this song in Russia. The idea was to reach beyond the borders and all the politics and connect with other musicians and perform together. He was hoping to record with the Leningrad State Orchestra. However, travel to Russia at the time was not easy and getting a recording done even harder. Eventually all the political bureaucracy became too much and Sting was unable to make it happen.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Stages" by ZZ Top

Song#:  2588
Date:  01/18/1986
Debut:  62
Peak:  21
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Texas band got their second Pop Top 10 hit with "Sleeping Bag," the lead single from their ninth studio album Afterburner. They kept things rolling with this next single that nearly made the Pop Top 20. It would do much better at Rock where like "Sleeping Bag" it hit #1. The album would end up being the highest peaking of their career getting to #4, but in the long run their 1983 album Eliminator, which peaked at #9, would sell twice as much moving over 10 million copies vs. 5 million for Afterburner.

ReduxReview:  I think with the massive success of Eliminator, the band was probably pressured to push out a similar album with even more of a commercial punch. They accomplished it with Afterburner, which had a good run of singles, but it certainly wasn't the ZZ Top of the blues-rock La Grange era. This song demonstrates that more than anything they had done. The tune was the most pop-oriented the band had ever recorded. It was as slick and polished as hits by Eddie Money or 38 Special with nary a hint of their brand of blues. Critics weren't all that hep to it, but I actually liked it. I thought the band did a good job of trying to incorporate their sound into something more mainstream. Yeah, they lose a bit of their identity, but I liked the effort and thought it was better than the goofy "Sleeping Bag."

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Another track on the Afterburner album, "Can't Stop Rockin'," was not released as a single, but it picked up enough radio airplay to send the song to #8 on the Rock chart. The song would later be picked up for use in the 1993 superhero/comedy flick Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. The live action move would use a mix of animatronics and suited actors. Because of this, actors were hired to supply the voices. Former 80s teen star Corey Feldman did the voice of Donatello, which was a reprisal of what he did on the first Ninja film. The part of Michelangelo was voiced by Robbie Rist, who had done the part in the previous two films. Some folks familiar with the 70s sitcom The Brady Bunch may remember Rist. He portrayed cousin Oliver in the last season of the show. After the show ended, Rist continued to act in TV shows and a few films. He also became a musician and has performed with many bands. His bread 'n' butter these days seems to be voice over work. In addition to the Ninja trilogy, Rist has supplied voices for numerous animated TV shows, films, and video games.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"Nikita" by Elton John

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2587
Date:  01/18/1986
Debut:  71
Peak:  7
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  John's nineteenth studio album Ice on Fire, started off on a bit of a weak note with its first single, the George Michael-assisted "Wrap Her Up," halting at the #20 spot. For a follow-up this ballad track was selected to be the next single. George Michael would once again make an appearance on backing vocals along with Nik Kershaw. The song slowly gained traction and did well enough to reach the Pop Top 10. It would also be a significant hit at AC getting to #3. Although the album would only peak at a minor #48 (his worst showing to this point for a studio album), this hit breathed enough life into sales of the LP to make it go gold.

ReduxReview:  John's Ice on Fire album ranks among his worst efforts, yet this song provided at least one good moment. Even though "Wrap Her Up" got to #20, it was basically a dud and could have easily sank the album. Luckily, this track was strong enough to overcome the bad start. It really should have been the LP's first single, but I'm assuming the label wanted an uptempo track to start things off and figured the George Michael connection would help sell it. In John's overall singles catalog, this one isn't necessarily a stand out, but it was a pretty good track that did its job in keeping John relevant in the 80s.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This Cold War tale written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin is about a Western man falling for a female East German border guard. The plot of the lyrics sounded awfully familiar to another songwriter named Guy Hobbs. Hobbs had written a song called "Natasha" in 1982 that was based on an experience he had while working as a photographer on a cruise ship. Hobbs ended up having a brief affair with another worker on the ship who was from Russian. Hobbs sent a demo of the song Elton John's publishers in hopes of maybe getting a deal, yet nothing came of it. Later on around 2001, Hobbs happened to read the lyrics to "Nikita" and since that song was written not long after he submitted his song, he figured they used his song as the basis for "Nikita" and decided to sue John and Taupin for plagiarism. In the end, John and Taupin won the lawsuit as the judge found that the ideas and similarities that Hobbs had pointed out between the songs did not fall under the rules for copyright protection.


Monday, November 12, 2018

"Another Night" by Aretha Franklin

Song#:  2586
Date:  01/18/1986
Debut:  74
Peak:  22
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Franklin's mid-80s comeback continued with this fourth single from her hit album Who's Zoomin' Who? Although it wouldn't reach the Top 20 like her previous three singles (two of those went Top 10), it still did well and nearly made that goal. It did better at R&B (#9) and Dance (#4). It also came close to the AC Top 20 making it to #21. The hits all helped to make the album Franklin's first to reach platinum sales.

ReduxReview:  While this tune was not as memorable or hooky as the classic "Freeway of Love" or the title track, it was still a solid track that made for a good single. It should have gotten into the Top 20, especially after doing well at R&B and Dance. My favorite part of the song is the breakdown where Aretha just shouts out "my man, I don't need you to be bringin' me down - HEY!" As usual, Aretha sings it with the punch and flare that only she can deliver. This song has gotten set aside over the years in favor of the other hits, which is a bummer as it deserves a bit more attention.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Beppe Cantarelli and Roy Freeland. Cantarelli was an Italian singer/songwriter/producer who had a bit of success as a solo act, but fared better behind the scenes. He hit it big as a songwriter in 1979 when several of his co-writes were picked up by Italian pop superstar Mina for her album Attila. Mina would record a few more of his songs on her next two albums. An opportunity to play guitar for Quincy Jones led to Cantarelli moving to Los Angeles. He continued to write songs and it wasn't too long before a few of them were being picked up by American artists like Franklin, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Tyler, and Laura Branigan. One of this tunes, "I Still Believe," got recorded by Brenda K. Starr in 1988. It was issued as a single and got to #13 Pop/#14 AC. The song was later covered by Mariah Carey in 1999 as a new track for her first hits compilation #1's. Although the song didn't reach #1 at Pop, it did well getting to #4. It also got to #3 R&B and #8 AC. A dance remix of the tune was created and it did end up hitting #1 on the Dance chart.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

"(How to Be A) Millionaire" by ABC

Song#:  2585
Date:  01/18/1986
Debut:  81
Peak:  20
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  The band's third album, How to Be a...Zillionaire!, netted them their first US Top 10 hit with the #9 "Be Near Me." This near-title track was then selected to be that single's follow-up. While it wouldn't get them back in the Top 10, it still did fairly well reaching the Pop Top 20 and making it to #4 on the Dance chart. The album would then make it to #30 and sell many more copies than their previous album, 1983's more rock-oriented Beauty Stab. It would fail to reach the gold-level sales, but it certainly put the band back in the spotlight.

ReduxReview:  This track kicked up the tempo from "Be Near Me" and it worked rather well as a follow-up. It expanded the band's smooth blue-eyed soul sound into something a bit more crunchy via a big 80s synthpop production. While it would not be one of their most memorable chart hits, its Top 20 placement was warranted. It was a great track that sounded good on the radio and it's animated MTV video was pretty cool.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  While ABC was having some of their best success in the US, the band's lead singer/songwriter was fighting a major battle that kept the band from touring. Martin Fry was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a type of lymphatic cancer, around the time the album was released. He had to undergo radiation treatments and chemotherapy along with having his spleen removed. Due to all of this, the band had to turn down an offer to tour the US with Tina Turner, an opportunity that would have certainly capitalized on their first US Top 10 hit. Fry decided to put up a major fight against the disease and he did beat the cancer.