Thursday, May 23, 2019

"Venus" by Bananarama

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2777
Date:  06/28/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This UK trio got their first US Top 10 hit with "Cruel Summer," the first single from their self-titled second album. Further singles from the LP failed to do much of anything, but with one hit under their belt, the trio was eager to score another. For their next album, True Confessions, they again mainly worked with the songwriting/production team of Tony Swain and Steve Jolley. However, after hearing Dead or Alive's hit "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" (#11 Pop), Bananarama wanted to work with that song's producers, the team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. They were able to grab some time from SAW and together recorded two songs for the album. One of the tracks they did was this cover tune (see below) that got issued out as the album's first official single. While it took a minute to catch on, it began to take off thanks in part to a popular MTV video. It would then reach #1 on both the Pop and Dance charts. It was also a minor entry at AC getting to #29. The hit then pushed the album to #15 and it would be a gold seller. It would be Bananarama's peak moment.

ReduxReview:  When I was a kid I had heard the original version of this song someplace and was entranced by it. The opening guitar lick, the chuggin' electric piano, and Mariska Veres' vocals (very Grace Slick-like) caught my attention. I remember going to a couple of record stores to see if I could find a copy of the single, which I did. Then the original Stars on 45 "Medley" single began with this song's opening lick and that took me back to the original song again. When I heard Bananarama was doing a cover, I wasn't sure how it would turn out. Apparently, both sets of their producers didn't think it was a good idea either but the trio finally convinced SAW to help them do an update. It ended up working out quite well. The song was a fit for Bananarama's unusual vocal approach and SAW's dance production totally worked. It resulted in a #1 hit. Many folks derided the cover saying the trio took the soul out of the tune and made it sterile, but I disagree. I think they took a 70s classic that they loved and updated just perfectly for themselves and for the time period.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the Dutch band Shocking Blue. Written by their guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen, it was in initially released as a single in Holland and a few other European countries in 1969. It became a major hit reaching #1 on several charts. US Promoter and producer Jerry Ross discovered the band on a trip to Europe and signed them to his Colossus label. "Venus" was issued out as a single in the US in 1970. After a slow start, the song took off and became a #1 hit that would earn a gold certification. Ross then assembled an album for the US market that included the hit plus songs from the band's previous European releases. The self-titled album would get to #31 in the US. After that, it was downhill for the band. Two further singles were minor blips on the Pop chart and that wrapped up their career in the States. The lone hit then got them tagged as a one-hit wonder. They had better luck back home where they scored several hits, but by 1974 the band folded. There's one other interesting tidbit about the original recording of "Venus." With English not being the band's first language, when van Leeuwen wrote down the lyrics to the song, he mistakenly wrote for the first line "the godness on the mountaintop" instead of "goddess." Lead singer Mariska Veres then sang it as written. Although the band would correct this on later recordings, the original version with the mistake was the one that became a hit.  2) This is one of only nine songs recorded by different artists where both versions reached #1 on the Pop chart. The first time it happened was in 1971 when Donny Osmond's version of "Go Away Little Girl" hit #1. It was originally a #1 hit for Steve Lawrence in 1963. As of this posting, the last song to do this was "Lady Marmalade." It hit #1 in 2001 in a version by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, and P!nk. The original version by Labelle reached #1 in 1975.


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