Saturday, January 19, 2019

"Call Me" by Dennis DeYoung

Song#:  2653
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  54
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The former Styx member scored a Top 10 hit in 1984 with the #10 "Desert Moon," taken from his debut solo album of the same name. Although the LP wouldn't be a huge seller like his works with Styx, it did well enough to call for a follow-up. In the spring of '86, DeYoung would issue out his second solo disc, Back to the World. This first single was pushed out ahead of the album and the song would be a hit at AC reaching #5 on that chart. It crossed over to Pop, but it couldn't attract a larger audience and the song sputtered out before it could get into the upper half of the chart. Without a solid Pop hit, the album then faltered and could only manage a very minor #108 peak.

ReduxReview:  I liked this song when it came out and especially dug the sax opening. It was definitely a DeYoung composition as it wasn't too dissimilar from some of the big ballads he penned for Styx. However, that may have been the problem. It seemed a bit stuck in the late 70s and the sound lended itself to an AC crowd. What might have made this song soar was a big production by someone like David Foster. If given the same treatment as some of the songs he did with Chicago around this time, DeYoung might have had a bigger hit. As-is, it's a lovely tune and a nice addition to DeYoung's catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  It was DeYoung's theatrical side that certainly played a part in the dissolving of Styx, but for his solo efforts he kept things mainly in the soft rock arena. He would later feed his theatrical side when he took on the role of Pontius Pilate in a 1993 touring version of Jesus Christ Superstar. The experience spurred him to do two other projects. First up was an album of Broadway show tunes titled 10 on Broadway. Around the same time he began to write a musical based on the Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He completed the show and in 1996 DeYoung issued out a concept album on which he and his sister-in-law performed all the parts. That same year, a production of the show debuted at the Polk Theater in Nashville. The response was positive and plans were developed to take the show to Broadway, but health issues sidelined DeYoung and progress of the show halted. In 2007, DeYoung got another production of the show up and running in his hometown of Chicago. The show would end up winning a Joseph Jefferson Award (for Chicago area theater) for best musical production.


Friday, January 18, 2019

"Right Between the Eyes" by Wax

Spotlight Alert!

Song#:  2652
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  97
Peak:  43
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Rock


Pop Bits:  When the British group 10cc was working on their 1981 album Ten Out of 10, their American label (Warner Bros.) thought there needed to be a couple of tracks that would be more in tune with US listeners (aka hits for US radio). The label though that if they co-wrote some tunes with an American songwriter it might help and they offered up the services of Andrew Gold. 10cc ended up liking the idea and brought in Gold. He co-wrote two songs with the band for the album and both were issued out as singles. Sadly, neither track charted and the album quickly disappeared. However, the relationship between 10cc and Gold was solid and Gold was even asked to join the band. He ended up declining due to other commitments. It was probably a good decision because 10cc split up in 1983. Yet 10cc's Graham Gouldman remained close with Gold and the pair spent time together working on music. It wasn't long before the duo had enough tracks for an album. They issued out a single under the name World in Action, but nothing came of it. They changed their name to Common Knowledge and pushed out another single that also went nowhere. Undeterred, they recorded more tracks, signed on with RCA and issued out a debut album titled Magnetic Heaven. The LP's first two singles failed, yet this third single finally got them noticed. It picked up enough airplay to reach #39 on the Rock chart while nearly making the Pop Top 40. While it wasn't a major hit, it was enough for the label to call for a second album and they released American English in 1987. The LP and its singles tanked in the US, but in the UK the song "Bridge to Your Heart" became a hit reaching #12. A third album did nothing and that was the end of Wax.

ReduxReview:  Although the band and the song title didn't bring anything to mind, once I started to play the tune I got that "oh yeah - I remember this song!" I'm not sure where I would have heard the track, but it was familiar to me right away. I also don't know why I didn't seek out the single. This was right up my alley. Perhaps it wasn't stocked at the local record store, which did happen on occasion. This was a really nice surprise. The song is great and I love the punchy 80s Motown-via-London production. It's a shame this didn't do better. When it comes down to it, it's not all that different from some of the stuff bands like Go West or Mike + the Mechanics were doing, but it was delicious pop that was well done. I think it is worthy of being the first song from 1986 to get a Spotlight mention. I may have to dip into the Wax catalog now.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Most folks are familiar with Andrew Gold thanks to two solo hits he had in the 70s. First was 1977's #7 "Lonely Boy." Then the following year he scored with the song "Thank You for Being a Friend." Although that song would only reach #25 on the Pop chart, it would later be forever known as the theme song to the classic TV show The Golden Girls (1985-1992). Although Gold's solo career would be short-lived, he remained an in-demand session musician and occasionally wrote songs for other artists. One of his songs, "I Saw the Light," was recorded by Wynnona Judd for her debut solo album in 1992. The song would be her second single and it would reach #1 on the Country chart. Gold could also be heard singing the theme song to the hit TV show Mad About You. The song, titled "Final Frontier," was written by Don Was and Paul Reiser and Gold's vocal version was used during the show's first five season.  2) Gold's mother was a famous singer who wasn't really famous during a good chunk of her career. Marni Nixon was a singer/performer who did ghost work supplying the singing voice to famous actresses in many big films. Her most famous dubs were supplying the vocals for Natalie Wood in West Side Story and for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. Most of the time Nixon would not receive credit for her work as the studios didn't want audiences to know the actresses didn't sing the songs. The ruse would come out later and despite having an extensive singing and acting career (winning four local Emmys and nominated for two Grammys), her biggest claim to fame would be as the ghost singer for some of Hollywood's biggest leading ladies.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

"I Do What I Do... (Theme for 9 1/2 Weeks)" by John Taylor

Song#:  2651
Date:  03/08/1986
Debut:  73
Peak:  23
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Around the time Michael Des Barres took over lead vocal duties for the Duran Duran off-shoot band Power Station (replacing Robert Palmer), he was asked to supply a song for the upcoming erotic drama film 9 1/2 Weeks. With his bandmate John Taylor (Duran Duran and Power Station's bassist) and the film's score composer Jonathan Elias, Des Barres came up with this theme song. Taylor then took the song and got it recorded for the film. It was then issued out as the first single from the soundtrack album. Interest was high in the single thanks to the movie and the fact that this was the first solo effort put out by a member of Duran Duran. The song was able to crack the Pop Top 30, but stalled soon after. The album was not a major success but did reach #59. Afterwards, John Taylor would join back up with Duran Duran. He wouldn't issue out another solo effort until 1997 with the album Feelings Are Good And Other Lies.

ReduxReview:  I had totally forgotten about this song. I didn't even recognize the title, but when the opening chorus started, it came back to mind. It really must have been the power of Duran Duran that made a minor hit out of this. Other than the hooky chorus line, there is not much of anything going on with this song. It doesn't help that Taylor is not a good lead vocalist. He kind of talk/sings through what I assume are verses. And then there is the weird break section. Other than being an oddity in the Duran Duran family catalog, the song doesn't offer much.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Apparently, Taylor was not supposed to sing this song. It was originally offered to Canadian singer/songwriter Dalbello (aka Lisa dal Bello). She ended up passing on the song and with little time to secure another vocalist, Taylor was basically coerced into singing the song. Some folks were not all that kind to Taylor's performance or even the song itself. It ended up being nominated for a Golden Raspberry award for Worst Song. However, Taylor's Duran Duran connection gave the song a boost and it ended up being a middling hit.  2) Although Dalbello bailed on lead vocals for this song (she did provide backing vocals), she did record one of her own compositions for the soundtrack titled "Black on Black." That song would be picked up in 1993 by Heart and altered by Ann and Nancy Wilson to become "Black on Black II." As a teenager, Lisa dal Bello recorded three pop-oriented albums with her 1977 self-titled debut earning hear a Juno award for Most Promising Female Vocalist. By 1982, she retreated from music and pursued other ventures, yet she was lured back to recording by famed David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson. The pair came up with her rock-oriented fourth album, 1984's whomanfoursays. The LP was well-received and one tune from it, "Wait for an Answer," would be picked up and recorded by Heart for their 1987 album Bad Animals. She would record two more albums before leaving the spotlight to work in other mediums like television and film.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"Bad Boy" by Miami Sound Machine

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2650
Date:  03/08/1986
Debut:  76
Peak:  8
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This Gloria Estefan-led Latin-pop band broke through to the masses with the infectious #10 hit "Conga." It was from their second English-language album, Primitive Love. Next up for release was this second single. The straight-ahead pop tune was a fit for both Pop and AC radio and the song made it to #8 on both charts. It also got to #10 at Dance. The crossover action helped the single sell extra copies and it ended up being the band's second consecutive gold record.

ReduxReview:  I think the remix helped to sell this song (see below). The sound is crisper, the skittery original opening is ditched, the horns are more emphasized throughout, and the song had more of a dance feel to it. The embellishments made it perfect for Pop radio. At the time I wasn't a big fan of the song and kind of ignored it, but I appreciate its Motown-ish feel much better now. However, it still wouldn't rank high on my list of favorite Gloria Estefan songs.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This tune got a bit of a makeover for its single release. Producer/remixer Shep Pettibone was hired to spruce up the ditty and he came up with a remix that would be issued out instead of the original version found on the Primitive Love album. The fresh take on the tune was a winner and it handed Miami Sound Machine a second Top 10 hit. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Pettibone was a sought after remixer and did work for many of the top artists of those decades. He did no less than fifteen remixes for hits from Madonna along with several for Pet Shop Boys, Janet Jackson, David Bowie, Whitney Houston, and many others. His tenure with Madonna certainly pushed his name into the limelight and along the way he would also co-write and co-produced a few of Madonna's songs including one of her biggest hits, 1990's #1 "Vogue."


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"If You Leave" by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2649
Date:  03/08/1986
Debut:  81
Peak:  4
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  After OMD broke through in the US with their more pop-oriented album Crush, featuring the #26 Pop entry "So in Love," film director John Hughes asked the band to supply a song for an upcoming feature that he was writing and producing titled Pretty in Pink. After some last minute changes (see below), the band came up with this track that would play during the last scene of the film. Hughes was known at the time for developing song soundtracks to his films featuring edgy, new artists and Pretty in Pink would be another timely compilation that featured artists like INXS, Psychedelic Furs, Suzanne Vega, New Order, The Smiths, and Echo & the Bunnymen. OMD's track would be the first single issued out from the soundtrack album. Thanks to the film being a hit, the track took off and ended up reaching the Pop Top 10. It also got to #24 at AC. The hit would help the soundtrack album reach #5 and go gold. It would end up being OMD's biggest hit in the US.

ReduxReview:  The band was fortunate enough to get a second chance to supply a song (see below) because the original tune was not hit material. The new track ended up working out very well for the band, the movie, and the soundtrack. It was serendipitous. I like this song, but it's not without its annoyances; mainly that syncopated synth part. It starts in the second verse in the background and during a break before the last section it comes to the forefront. It just makes me anxious and jittery. I mean, they couldn't come up with something else to fill that section? It's also weird that the title of the song is not in the chorus. Luckily, the tune was hooky enough that it didn't matter. I still like the tune, but it's not a big favorite.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  When OMD was first approached to write a song, they came up with one titled "Goddess of Love." It was used over the closing scene for the original ending of the film. However, test audiences disliked the movie's ending and that prompted a change. The final scene was rewritten, but then Hughes realized that OMD's song didn't fit the new ending. The band was asked to quickly write a new song for the scene. Within a short two days, they wrote and did a rough version of "If You Leave." Hughes loved the track and the new tune was finished off and used. It would become OMD's biggest US hit. "Goddess of Love" wasn't left on the shelf. OMD would include it on their next LP, The Pacific Age. It would not be one of the album's singles.


Monday, January 14, 2019

"Feel It Again" by Honeymoon Suite

Song#:  2648
Date:  03/08/1986
Debut:  86
Peak:  34
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Canadian band's debut single, "New Girl Now," was a #7 hit on the US Rock chart and it did well enough to reach #57 at Pop. Subsequent singles didn't chart at Pop, but their associated self-titled album tallied enough sales to reach #60. With a foundation built, the band set out to record a follow-up with their new producer Bruce Fairbairn. The subsequent LP, The Big Prize, was issued out along with this first single. Again, the band did well at Rock with the song reaching #8. The crossover action was much better this time and the single got near the Pop Top 30 before retreating. It would end up being their biggest hit in the US. The album was a hit in Canada and it earned them a Juno award for Group of the Year while The Big Prize was nominated for Album of the Year.

ReduxReview:  Taking cues from bands like Foreigner, Honeymoon Suite perfected their commercial arena rock sound with this track. The verse is solid and it builds well to an explosive, hooky chorus. Of course, the production is top notch and certainly helped the song along. The tune had muscle, but it didn't overwhelm its pop radio viability. It really should have done better than just the Top 40.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Of course the success of the album had mainly to do with the band's songs and performances, but some also cite the production/engineering as a highlight. It was produced by Bruce Fairbairn who was having solid success with fellow Canadians Loverboy. On board as engineer was Bob Rock. Their work was noticed by many including members of a US band that was still attempting to break through. Bon Jovi had two albums under their belt with a few charting songs, but they needed far better results in order to keep their label happy and to alleviate some financial issues. While getting ready to record their third album, Jon Bon Jovi happened to hear Honeymoon Suite's album and loved the sound that Fairbairn and Rock had created. The band decided to bring the team on board and they all worked together to create what would be the mega-hit LP Slippery When Wet. Bob Rock's work would later attract another major band. Metallica hired him on to produce their 1991 self-titled album (also known as "The Black Album"). It would go on to be a 16-million selling #1 LP.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

"Great Gosh A'Mighty! (It's a Matter of Time)" by Little Richard

Song#:  2647
Date:  03/08/1986
Debut:  87
Peak:  42
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B, Rock 'n' Roll, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Rock 'n' roll pioneer and legend Richard Penniman, aka Little Richard, first became a star following the release of his 1955 classic "Tutti Frutti" (#2 R&B/#21 Pop). A string of hits would follow throughout the 50s including "Long Tall Sally" (1956, #1 R&B/#13 Pop), "Lucille" (1957, #1 R&B/#27 Pop), and "Good Golly, Miss Molly" (1958, #4 R&B, #10 Pop). In all, Little Richard would score fourteen R&B Top 10's including three #1's. But as the 60s approached, the hits dried up and he turned to gospel music. A 1962 European tour brought him back around to rock music and his popularity soared overseas. At home his career floundered, but around 1968 he got back on track thanks to appearances on TV and at some major music festivals. It culminated in his 1970 album The Rill Thing, which featured the minor hit "Freedom Blues" (#28 R&B/#47 Pop). The remainder of the 70s was up-n-down for Richard and by the end of the decade he once again left behind rock for gospel. Then in 1985, he was offered a role in the upcoming Paul Mazursky comedy Down and Out in Beverly Hills, which was to star Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, and Richard Dreyfuss. Richard accepted the role and then also wrote this faith-based theme song for the film with Billy Preston. The film would be a big hit and the theme song would be issued out as a single. While the song would not reach the R&B chart, it did become his first solo entry on the Pop chart since 1970. The song stopped just short of making the Top 40. While not a huge hit, the song and his appearance in the film revived his career and he has remained a popular musician and entertainment personality since then. Little Richard was among those chosen to be the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it first opened in 1986.

ReduxReview:  Every now and then an old school rock 'n' roll tune catches folk's attention and Little Richard was able to grab some listeners with this track. It probably helped quite a bit that it was featured in a hit film and that Richard got some great notices for his performance in it. The lyrics are very, very vaguely religious and probably most people didn't pick up on that as they were concentrating on Richard just rockin' out. It is definitely a throwback to what Richard always did best and he demonstrated that he could still easily do it thirty-one years after his first hit.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Two future music stars were once members of Little Richard's band. Billy Preston became a band member in 1962. He wouldn't stay for long, but the two remained friends and occasionally worked together, as they did co-writing this song. Preston would score five Pop Top 10 hits in the 70s including two #1's. He was also well associated with The Beatles, whom he met when the new band opened a few dates for Little Richard's European tour in 1963. In 1964, guitarist Jimi Hendrix joined Richard's band. It was a tumultuous relationship and after about 6 months, Hendrix left the band (or by some accounts was fired). Hendrix would later be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his band in 1992.  2) Down and Out in Beverly Hills is basically an American remake of a 1932 Jean Renoir French film titled Boudu sauvĂ© des eaux (or translated Boudu Saved from Drowning), which itself was adapted from a 1919 play by the same title. It was the first film from a Disney studio (Touchstone) to receive an R rating. It was Bette Midler's first hit after her Oscar nominated role in 1979's The Rose. She would spend the remainder of the decade doing five more successful films for Disney/Touchstone including the popular 1988 weepie Beaches, which spawned a hugely successful soundtrack thanks to Midler's #1 hit "Wind Beneath My Wings."