Saturday, December 15, 2018

"In Between Days (Without You)" by The Cure

Song#:  2619
Date:  02/15/1986
Debut:  99
Peak:  99
Weeks:  1
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  Thanks to the gloomy and atmospheric sounds that they perfected on their first five albums (in particular 1982's Pornography - #8 UK), Britain's The Cure became one of the first bands whose music was described as goth rock. With their big hair, makeup, and dour demeanor, the band became synonymous with the genre. They were having good success at home, but after five albums they had yet to make a real dent in the US market. The band's lead singer and songwriter Robert Smith chose to take a more pop/rock flavored approach for The Cure's next LP, The Head on the Door. The more streamlined (and less dreary) sound was well-received and it resulted in this first single hitting #15 in the UK. In the US, the track generated a lot of buzz on college campuses and it picked up some airplay. It was enough for the single to get on the Pop chart, but only for one short week. It did a bit better at Dance going to #39. The results weren't fantastic, but it was enough to spur interest in the album and it ended up reaching a solid #59 on the chart. While it wasn't a huge breakthrough, it was their first significant success in the States and it set them up well for their next few albums.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those songs so many people now know that it's nearly incomprehensible it spent only one week on the chart when it was first released. I guess pop radio at the time wasn't ready for jangly alt-rock with sorrowful lyrics. The Cure definitely appealed to the lonely and depressed, but it was going to take a while longer before the mainstream would catch up to them. Luckily, this song came along for the ride and over the years it has turned into one of their most popular tracks.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The band was initially named Easy Cure. It came from the title of a song their drummer had written. Under that moniker, they ended up entering and winning a talent contest that secured them a deal with the record label Hansa. The band began to record demos for a potential album, but the label just wasn't thrilled with the results. Hansa wanted to turn the band into something more pop-oriented and have them do cover tunes. The group told the label no and in the end they took off and none of their recordings for the label were released (a few later showed up on a 2004 reissue version of their 1979 debut album Three Imaginary Boys). In 1978 after a lineup change, Robert Smith shortened the name of the band to The Cure (as he thought Easy Cure was too hippie-ish and didn't fit their sound) and they got signed to Fiction Records, an offshoot of Universal. Their first official album came out the following year and made it to #44 in the UK.


Friday, December 14, 2018

"Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco

#1 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  2618
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  79
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance

Pop Bits:  Austrian musican Johann H√∂lzel, aka Falco, became part of Vienna's underground music scene at a teenager. He played with different bands for several years until an artist manager spotted him performing with the infamous shock-rock group Dhradiwaberl and offered to secure him a record deal. The results of that was Falco's 1982 debut album Einzelhaft. It became a major hit in Austria and several other countries thanks to the single "Der Kommissar." In the US, the song was ignored at Pop despite getting to #10 at Dance and #22 Rock. (It would become a hit in '83 when the band After the Fire did an English version of the song.) Falco's next LP, Junge Roemer, was only successful in his home country. Wanting to be a much bigger worldwide star, Falco hired new producers and worked with them to co-write his next LP Falco 3. In May of '85, this first single was issued out around Europe. It became enormously popular reaching #1 in many countries. As '86 began, the song started to get picked up in the US. Aided by a memorable MTV video, the single made a beeline for the #1 spot and ended up staying there for three weeks. It would also get to #4 Dance and #6 R&B. The hit boosted sales of the album and it would end up being a gold seller that reached #3. Falco finally had the hit that he wanted. Unfortunately, it would be his only Top 10 hit in the US. Although he would have far less memorable Top 20 follow-up, this song was so iconic that Falco got tagged as a one-hit wonder (#44 on VH1's list of Greatest One-Hit Wonders).

ReduxReview:  There were various versions of the song released. The one I'm most used to is the American Edit (above), which was the one used in the US for the single and for radio airplay. The video used the original "Gold Mix," which appeared on the European version of Falco 3. For the US version of the LP, the Gold Mix was replaced by a much longer 8 minute version called the Salieri Mix. That one includes an English language rundown of Mozart's life by date. Frankly, the dang thing is way too long. This is one tune that benefits from a good edit. Once it is down to the basics, the song is a lot of fun. Is it great? No way. Falco's goofy rap-sung delivery paired with the subject matter, German language, and the quirky video nearly put the song in novelty territory. However, a hooky chorus and solid production held the thing above water. It ended up being a cultural touch point with the tune being parodied and referenced many times including on The Simpsons.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Inspired by the 1984 Oscar winning film Amadeus, this song was written as a tribute to composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The lyrics portray him as a bad boy rock-n-roll type that everyone celebrates despite his debts and other faults like womanizing. In the video, Falco dresses up like Mozart in a rainbow wig and joins up with a motorcycle gang.  2) This was the first German language song to reach #1 on the US Pop chart. In 1983, Nena came close to being the first with the song "99 Luftballons," but it stalled at #2. Falco was also the first Austrian-born artist to reach the top spot in the rock era.


Thursday, December 13, 2018

"Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2617
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  83
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After his stint with The Power Station rejuvenated his career, Palmer went back to being a solo act and issued out the album Riptide. The LP's first single, "Discipline of Love," should have benefited from his Power Station association, but it fizzled quickly at a low #82. That easily could have sank the album, but then this second single was quickly issued out. It debuted one spot below where his previous single peaked and slowly began to gain traction. The song started to take over the airwaves and thanks in part to an iconic MTV music video, the single made it to the top of both the Pop and Rock charts. It also got to #36 at Dance. It was Palmer's first major solo hit since 1979's "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)" reached #14 and it would be the biggest of his career. The song would also earn Palmer his first Grammy Award in the Male Rock Vocal Performance category. The single would go gold and it would help the album reach #8. Eventually the LP would sell over two million copies.

ReduxReview:  It still mystifies me why this was the second single. The beat, the buzzy guitar, the keyboard, and the hooky chorus added up to something that just could not miss. Bernard Edwards' production was spot-on as well. This had "hit" written all over it, but what certainly sent it to the top of the chart was the associated video. It wasn't a technical marvel or anything fancy, but it had a simple concept that worked far better than anyone expected. It is still mesmerizing to watch. Although the song easily stands on its own, it is nearly impossible to hear now without thinking about those clone-ish models. Both are classics from the decade.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Palmer, who wrote this song, initially intended for it to be a duet between him and Chaka Khan. Apparently it was recorded as such, but Khan's label would not allow her voice to be used on the song. Palmer had to edit out Khan's vocal and adjust the recording to be a solo effort.  2) The famous video for the song was directed by British fashion photographer Terence Donovan. Featuring a "band" of women who all wore the same clothes, makeup, and hair, the video became iconic from the decade and has been imitated many times over the years in various ways. The "band" would also make appearances in two more Robert Palmer videos, "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" and "Simply Irresistible," both of which hit #2.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"I Like You" by Phyllis Nelson

Song#:  2616
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  84
Peak:  61
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance, R&B, Synthpop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  This Florida native originally started off as a member of a family group. She then branched out and began to provide background vocals for various R&B artists. In the mid-70s, Nelson moved into the disco/dance market with the vocal trio Brown Sugar. Signed to Capitol Records, they issued a couple of singles in 1976 that went nowhere. Nelson then later pursued a solo career and signed with the French label Carrere in 1980. Her first single, "Don't Stop the Train," made it to #20 on the US Dance chart, but follow-up singles failed to do anything. Then after hitting it big in the UK with "Move Closer" (see below), Nelson attempted to get established in the US and pushed out this new single. It became a big success on the US Dance chart getting to #1. However, it just didn't cross over to the other charts as well. Its peaks at Pop (#61) and Dance (#65) were nearly the same. Again, further follow-ups failed to chart. This song remains her only one to reach the Pop and R&B charts in the US. Nelson died of breast cancer in 1998.

ReduxReview:  My one takeaway from this song is that...she likes me. A lot. And she likes everyone else too. A lot. I can hear how this song might have played well in the clubs, but the hi-nrg track just wasn't quite right for the other charts. I think it's just an average song dressed up in charging synths and effects. It's great that it found an audience, but it's nothing that really hooks me. It's actually a shame that "Move Closer" didn't catch on in the US. It's a much better and more interesting song.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although she was known for being a dance music diva, Nelson was also a songwriter. In 1984 she wrote a ballad titled "Move Closer." Although it was nothing like her previous songs, it ended up getting selected for single release. The song failed to make an impression and it disappeared quickly. Yet in early '85, nearly a year after its initial release, the song started to get airplay in the UK. It picked up speed and a couple of months later the single sat atop the UK chart. In doing so, Nelson became the first black female artist to reach #1 with her own composition. Despite the success in the UK and a few other countries, the song still couldn't break through in the US. She then quickly wrote "I Like You," which did get her on the US charts. The song would only reach #81 in the UK. Later in 1994, the song was featured in a British commercial for a deodorant. The ad generated interested in the song and it was reissued. It got to #34 on the UK chart.  2) Nelson's son Marc would go on to have some success in music, but he could have had an even bigger one. Marc Nelson was an original member and co-founder of Boyz II Men. The vocal group was on their way to being signed to a major label, but after delays and other conflicts within the group, Nelson decided to leave and shoot for a solo career. He signed with Capitol and was able to get a couple of minor singles on the R&B chart. With not much happening with his solo work, Nelson then became part of the vocal group Az Yet. The group would issue out a platinum-selling debut album in 1996 that featured the hits "Last Night" (#1 R&B, #9 Pop) and "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" (#20 R&B, #8 Pop). He would leave the group and head back out on his own. In 1999, he had his only major chart success as a solo artist with the #4 R&B hit "15 Minutes" (#27 Pop). He continued to work in music and also got into acting.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"No Frills Love" by Jennifer Holliday

Song#:  2615
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  87
Weeks:  3
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Holliday's second solo album, Say You Love Me, wasn't attracting the same attention as her debut LP. The first single, "Hard Time for Lovers," stalled early at both R&B (#17) and Pop (#69). This second single couldn't get a foothold either and it topped out a disappointing #29 at R&B while only spending three short weeks on the Pop chart. However, the tune would fill up dance floors across the country and it ended up reaching #1 on the Dance chart. Unfortunately, that didn't translate into sales for the album, which ended up peaking at #34 R&B and #110 Pop.

ReduxReview:  I'm not really sure why this song wasn't released as the first single. It's pure radio-friendly, hooky dance-pop. It may not have been a big Pop hit, but I think it would have done better if it had been pushed out first. With "Hard Time for Lovers" pretty much tanking, interest was lost in the album and no one wanted to pay attention to this song. However, the clubs spun it to great success. It's not a fantastic song, but it was a pretty good one to show that Holliday could do more than the big ballads she had become known for.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song would be Holliday's last to reach the Pop chart. She had a few more R&B entries including the #10 single "I'm on Your Side," which was from the 1991 album of the same name. She would have better luck on the Dance chart where she had five more Top 10's including 2000's #1 "Think It Over." That song was a remake of Cissy Houston's 1978 #32 R&B original version.  2) In 1996, Holliday released a compilation titled The Best of Jennifer Holliday. Included on the collection was a new remix version of "No Frills Love." Once again it turned into a club hit and made it to #1 on the Dance chart.


Monday, December 10, 2018

"The Power of Love" by Jennifer Rush

Song#:  2614
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  91
Peak:  57
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  New York-born Jennifer Rush (real name Heidi Stern) just couldn't catch a break in her home country. The classically trained musician/singer issued out an indie LP in 1979 under her real name and shopped it around to various labels, but none bit. Her father, who was an opera singer living in Germany, took her demo around to labels there and ended up getting a nibble from CBS. An initial single release in 1983 tanked, but then she was paired with a production team and began writing songs with them. Her first two singles from the sessions didn't fare well, but her next two singles made the German Top 30 and a debut album was issued. Then "The Power of Love" was pushed out late in '84. It became a #9 hit and distribution to other European countries soon followed. By October of '85, the song hit #1 in the UK where it remained for five weeks. Finally, the song made it to the US at the beginning of '86 and it should have been a triumphant return home for Rush, but the song didn't turn into the mega hit it had been in many other countries. It stalled before it could even get into the top half of the Pop chart and failed to catch on at AC. With the single tanking, the album was a non-starter and didn't chart.

ReduxReview:  I still don't understand why everyone went ga-ga for this song. It has always had a snooze factor of about  9.5 for me. The thing just drags on and on. Even the shortened radio version bores me silly. It is just one rolling drone of a tune and no matter who sings it, I'm not going to be a fan. Rush has a nice, big voice but even she sounds a bit lethargic on her own song. Out of the four charting versions, this may be my least favorite. Air Supply probably did the most palatable version. Laura Branigan's take sounds like she's gonna rupture her vocal chords, yet she's engaged and passionate. Then there is Celine Dion screaming her way through the dirge. The thing that saves it for Dion is that the arrangement nearly eliminates the rolling effect and turns it into a more straight ahead pop tune, which does make it better. However, no matter the version, I've suffered enough with the song. Please just make it stop...please...

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This song wasn't just a chart topper in the UK. It became the best selling single of the year there in addition to being the biggest selling single ever by a female artist at the time. With that much attention and sales, it seems nearly assured that the song would be a hit in the US as well. Weirdly, it ended up being a dud even as our neighbors to the north, Canada, took it to #1 there. So why was this a hit around the globe yet a miss in the US? There may be several reasons that all contributed. First, when CBS in the US was approached to release the album, they chose not to citing that it sounded to European for the US pop market. They might have been right. Not everything that works in other countries like the UK will appeal to American ears and audiences may not have been ready for this chugging ballad, which definitely had a European feel. Another reason may be that the song had already been a US AC chart hit. As Rush's version was beginning to break overseas, Air Supply got wind of the song and got it recorded and released in the US in late summer of '85. Their version only got to #68 Pop, but it was a hit at AC getting to #3. With the song already having its chance in the marketplace, another version released soon after was going to have a difficult time. Promotion may have also been at play. Since CBS wasn't hot on Rush's album to begin with, it was doubtful they would do heavy promotion on something they weren't keen on in the first place. Combine all this together and basically Rush got the shaft in her home country. However, as a co-writer of the song she can't be too sad as two more versions of the song would do much better on the US chart. Laura Branigan's 1987 take would get to #26 while Celine Dion would take it to #1 in 1994.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

"Jimmy Mack" by Sheena Easton

Song#:  2613
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  65
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Easton's Nile Rodgers-produced album Do You didn't get off to a great start. The first single, "Do It for Love," didn't connect with listeners and it stalled just inside the Top 30 (#29). It was highly disappointing since her previous two albums each began with a Top 10 hit. To try and get things back on track, this next single was pushed out. It also failed to grab an audience and died off after a few weeks in the lower half of the chart. It did slightly better at Dance getting to #30. A third single, "Magic of Love," failed to make any chart. Although the album peaked at a mediocre #40, enough fans showed up to make the album go gold.

ReduxReview:  This song has always confounded me. My main question is - why? Easton's previous two albums set her up to be a pop diva vixen and she accomplished that with three Top 10 hits. She had cemented her new image. Then along comes Nile Rodgers and completely changes things up at a time when it wasn't necessary. I think Rodgers was aiming for a more mature urban-flavored pop-dance sound and it didn't work. It was like Easton aged ten years overnight. I mean, one minute she was doing sexy and current pop tunes like "Strut" and then the next she was covering a moldy Motown hit that wasn't going to appeal at all to a younger audience. It was a major mistake at the time and it took Prince's involvement the following year to get Easton back on track. Does that mean the album is bad? Not really. Years later, many fans point to this as one of her best albums. It just wasn't the right album to do at the time. I like several tracks on the LP, but this isn't one of them. I was never a big fan of the original version (see below) and Easton's remake didn't do anything for me either. Why it was done to begin with, let alone pushed out as a single, remains a mystery. Easton went from talking about her "Sugar Walls" to singing one of your grandma's favorite songs in a span of just over a year. Not good.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by Martha and the Vandellas. Their version was a #10 Pop/#1 R&B hit in 1967. It ended up being the group's sixth and final Pop Top 10, but it almost wasn't. The song, written by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team, was recorded by Martha and the Vandellas in 1964. In those days, Motown head Berry Gordy would hold his infamous "quality control" meetings where completed songs would be critiqued for release. Apparently, this song didn't pass muster and it got vaulted. Reasons for it not making the cut vary, but it is commonly mentioned that Gordy thought it was too close to sounding like The Supremes, who were basically his pet project since they just hit it big. Flash forward a couple of years and somehow the recording got dusted off and played for Gordy who declared that it was a hit and needed to get issued out right away. The delayed released may have helped the song become a hit. By 1967, the Vietnam War was revving up with thousands of American troops deployed. The song's "when are you coming back" sentiment was timely and may have contributed to its popularity.