Saturday, February 9, 2019

"Johnny Come Home" by Fine Young Cannibals

Song#:  2674
Date:  04/05/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  76
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul, Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the 1983 breakup of the English ska band The Beat (known as The English Beat in the US), two of its members went on to form the duo General Public ("Tenderness," 1984, #27 Pop) while two other members, Andy Cox and David Steele, set out to start their own band. They needed a vocalist to front the project and after an extensive search they hired in Roland Gift. The trio was having a difficult time finding label interest, but after performing on a UK music TV show called The Tube, they began receiving offers. They signed on with London Records (I.R.S. Records for the US) and began recording a self-titled debut album. This song was pushed out as the first single and it did well in the UK reaching #8. In the US, the tune along with another album track titled "Blue" would get to #9 on the Dance chart. However, it couldn't get a foothold on the Pop chart and halted about a quarter of the way up. Despite the song not doing that well at Pop, interest in the band helped the album reach #49.

ReduxReview:  This song is a bit unusual. Cox and Steele tamped down some of the ska from The Beat and added a bit more dance/pop elements along with some cool trumpet lines. I can understand why this would play well in the UK, but it was just a little too alternative for US pop radio. I don't dislike the tune, but I don't like it all that much either. I've also never been a fan of Roland Gift's voice. I tend to like singers with odd voices, but Gift's was one I found more annoying than endearing. It's an interesting song, but there's nothing here that holds my attention or makes me want to hear it again or listen to the album.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The name of the band is taken from the title of a somewhat obscure 1960 film called All the Fine Young Cannibals. The film starred Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner. They were married at the time and it was their first film together. Wood and Wagner would be divorced later in 1962, but then would remarry in 1972. They would remain together until her much publicized, mysterious death in 1981. All the Fine Young Cannibals was not a hit film. It was based on the 1957 novel The Bixby Girls by Rosamond Marshall and also loosely based on the great jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. Wood and Wagner would not do another feature film together, but they did co-star in the 1973 TV move The Affair and Wood did guest spots on two of Wagner's hit TV shows, Switch and Hart to Hart.


Friday, February 8, 2019

"I Wanna Be a Cowboy" by Boys Don't Cry

One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  2673
Date:  04/05/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  12
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance-Pop, Novelty

Pop Bits:  This UK band was started up in the early 80s by a recording studio owner named Nick Richards. He and his house band would work up songs between other sessions and in 1983 they issued out an indie EP titled Don't Talk to Strangers. Nothing much came from it, but they kept on recording tunes. Richards was a fan of spaghetti Western films and one day he was walking around the studio saying "I want to be a cowboy." Someone heard Richards and told him that the phrase would be a cool song title. Richards got his band together and quickly wrote and recorded "I Wanna Be a Cowboy." Richards then got it pressed to vinyl under his own label, Legacy, and using connections began to get it circulated to clubs. Not long after, he got a call from the small US indie label Profile. They were interested in releasing the song in the States. Richards made a deal with the label thinking not much would come from it Yet the quirky song started to get some attention after its release and began climbing the Pop chart. It nearly made the Top 10, but stopped just shy. The hit prompted Profile to want an album and the band came up with a self-titled debut that contained the hit. A follow-up single failed to chart and a second album the following year yielded nothing. Those results brought an end to the band. This lone novelty-ish hit would be their only claim to fame and due to that they were labeled a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  Let's just say it - this song is utterly inane. Yet the dang thing is so stupidly catchy that it's nearly hard to resist. It also helps that the production was pretty great. I remember the sound coming from my vinyl 45 really rocked my speakers. I think more than anything I just like the groove and production. The novelty of the rest wasn't so annoying that I couldn't listen to it. I don't necessarily love the tune, but it's kind of fun to have it rattle up on the speakers in a playlist. Sadly for the band, this was one of those songs that was so unusual and unique that it was going to take something absolutely amazing to get folks to pay attention to them and they just didn't have that second go-to special song in their arsenal. Well, if you are gonna end up a one-hit wonder, why not make it something as catchy and kooky as this?

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Some folks thought that perhaps this band was named after the 1980 album and single by The Cure. However, the name came about from an earlier hit. British band 10cc had a #2 hit in 1975 with "I'm Not in Love." During the mid-section of the song, a female vocalist whispers "be quiet - big boys don't cry." She repeats the last four words several times and the oddball spoken word section helped to make the song a hit. Richards got the name of his band from the phrase. (Note - the female vocal part in 10cc's song was performed by the band's secretary Kathy Redfern.)  2) In 1997, singer/songwriter Paula Cole reached the Pop Top 10 with her Grammy nominated hit "Where Have All the Cowboy's Gone?" Remixes of the hit soon followed including one produced by The E-Team (DJ EFX and Big Ed) that was titled the "E-Team Drugstore Cowboy Mix." Along with other mixes, it was released on a CD maxi-single of the song. Included in the specific mix (and not on the original recording) was a clip of a man saying "I wanna be a cowboy." The tone, inflection, and cadence of the added snipped was nearly identical to the chorus of the Boys Don't Cry song. While a one-off thing might have been fine, the problem was that it was repeated 24 times throughout the mix. That led to Richards and co-writer Brian Chatton to file suit against Cole, her label, and the remixers for copyright infringement. It seems the $7 million lawsuit never went to trial, so it assumed that some legal settlement may have been the result.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

"Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2672
Date:  03/29/1986
Debut:  54
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Houston's self-titled debut album was showing no signs of slowing down. After spawning three consecutive gold records (two #1's, one #3), the album finally reached the #1 spot the second week of March in '86. It was the perfect time to release a fourth single. Yet there were limited choices left on the album. Three songs had already become hits, another had made the Top 10 at R&B ("Thinking About You"), one was an earlier duet hit with Teddy Pendergrass ("Hold Me"), and one other track had been released in other countries ("All at Once"). That left four tracks to choose from. Two were duets with Jermaine Jackson and one was considered a weaker album cut. That left this ballad that had already been getting a bit of airplay. The song had originally been released as the b-side to "You Give Good Love," yet when radio stations gave the track a spin, response was quite positive. It became the obvious choice for a fourth single and it ended up being the right call. The song became Houston's third consecutive #1 at Pop while also topping the AC chart and hitting #3 at R&B. It would also be her fourth consecutive gold record. It would later be nominated for a Grammy for Record of the Year. It was the perfect song to cap off Houston's star-making debut album, which spent 14 weeks at #1 and would eventually sell over 13 million copies in the US.

ReduxReview:  I do think this is a terrific song performed so well by Houston, but I admit that I grew so very, very tired of this tune back in the day. It was the greatest song fatigue of all. Whenever I'd hear that treacly piano/keyboard opening start, I'd just be "oh god, no...not again..." Even years later I'd still wanna stab whatever speaker was playing it. These days I have softened a bit on the song, but not a lot. Hearing it for this posting was the first time in many years that I actually (and purposely) listened to the full song. I appreciate the tune and it's place in making Houston a star. It's quite a lovely recording, yet that doesn't mean I'll ever be clamoring to hear it again.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot:  1) This is a remake of a song written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed and originally recorded by George Benson. Masser and Creed wrote "The Greatest Love of All" specifically for the 1977 Muhammad Ali biopic The Greatest, which featured Ali portraying himself. Benson's recording of the song was issued out as a single and it was a hit at R&B getting to #2. It also got to #24 at Pop and #22 AC. It was a song that Houston had loved and she sang the tune at a club show in NYC that was attended by Clive Davis and Michael Masser. Her version helped to get her signed to Arista Records. When it came time to record her debut LP, Houston wanted to record the song. Davis was against the choice, but was eventually persuaded to let Houston record it. Masser produced the song, which then had an adjusted title of "Greatest Love of All" (minus "The"). It became one of Houston's biggest and most enduring hits.  2) Sometimes hit songs generate controversies and this one nearly ended up in court. After hearing Houston's hit version of the tune, singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot filed a plagiarism suit against Masser (Masser wrote the music, Creed penned the lyrics). It seems that Lightfoot was unaware of the song when first recorded by Benson, but Houston's version was practically inescapable and when Lightfoot heard the track (apparently while riding in an elevator), he noticed distinct similarities between the song and his own 1970 hit "If You Could Read My Mind" (#5 Pop/#1 AC). He counted at least 24 bars of music that were similar to ones in his song. He filed suit against Masser, but when publicity of the case started to draw in and affect Houston, Lightfoot withdrew the suit. He didn't want it to involve or have any negative effect on Houston. His beef was solely with Masser. But when it seemed that the issue might tarnish Houston's reputation and career, Lightfood didn't want that and ended up retreating. (In case you were wondering what part of the song resemble's Lightfoot's, it is the section leading up to the chorus that begins with "I decided long ago..." It is very nearly the same as sections that end the verses in "If You Can Read My Mind," especially when they are repeated.)


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

"Is It Love" by Mr. Mister

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2671
Date:  03/29/1986
Debut:  60
Peak:  8
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  By the beginning of '86, Mr. Mister found themselves with a trio of #1's. Their second LP Welcome to the Real World would top the chart while its first two singles, "Broken Wings" and "Kyrie" would each spend two weeks at #1. The band was certainly at their peak and to keep the momentum going, this third single was issued out from the album. While it wouldn't make it to the top of the Pop chart like the others, it still did quite well making it into the Top 10. It also got to #17 at Rock. The month prior to this song hitting the chart, the album was certified as a platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  On an album that didn't have a ton to offer besides the two #1's, this track was the best of the remaining bunch. However, I do think that this was pushed along by the other two hits. Had this song been the first released from the album, I don't even think it would have made the Top 40. Not that it's a bad song, it's just not in the same league as "Broken Wings" and "Kyrie." Luckily for the band it performed well as a follow up, but when's the last time you heard this song? It just didn't have the same quality and shelf-life longevity that pushed the other two songs way beyond the decade. Sadly, none of the band's songs after this did either.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In addition to co-writing all of Mr. Mister's song, band leader Richard Page would go on to supply tunes for many other artists including stars like Al Jarreau, Donna Summer, James Ingram, Dionne Warwick, and the Pointer Sisters. His biggest hit as a co-writer outside of his own band would come in 1994. Page initially came up with a song called "I'll Remember" that found it's way to Madonna. Madonna's own label, Maverick, was set to supply a soundtrack to the upcoming film With Honors starring Brendon Fraser and Joe Pesci. At the time, Madonna was having some image issues due to her notorious Sex book and the nearly associated Erotica album not performing as well as her previous efforts. When Page's AC-leaning ballad showed up, it seemed like something that could help reshape Madonna's image and start a new era for the megastar. Plus, it didn't hurt that Madonna's track record on hits from soundtracks was nearly flawless. Madonna liked Page's song and decided to work on it. She wrote new lyrics for it and along with her producer Patrick Leonard, they shaped it into something that fit her and the film. "I'll Remember" would serve as the film's theme song and it would be issued out as a single. The song would reach #2 at Pop and #1 at AC. It was her best chart showing in two years (since another soundtrack single "This Used to Be My Playground" topped the Pop chart). The song would get a Grammy nod for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture or for Television, and it would also get a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song. Unfortunately, it didn't make the cut for an Oscar nod.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

"Rough Boy" by ZZ Top

Song#:  2670
Date:  03/29/1986
Debut:  65
Peak:  22
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After reaching the Pop Top 10 with "Sleeping Bag" (#8), ZZ Top grabbed a second hit from their Afterburner album with "Stages," a #1 Rock track that just barely missed out on the Pop Top 20 (#21). Next up from the LP was this out-of-character ballad from the band. The song eased itself into the #5 position at Rock while at Pop it nearly matched the peak of their previous single. The hits would mark the first and only time ZZ Top would place three singles from one album in the Pop Top 30.

ReduxReview:  While this song is an improvement on "Leila" (see below), it's still not all that great. Pop balladry is just not in ZZ Top's wheelhouse. If they wanted to tone down the tempo, I'm sure they could have come up with some bluesy tune that had a bit of bite to it. My guess is this was just something driven by the band and/or the record company to further commercialize their sound. Hard rock bands around this time were having crossover success releasing pop-centric power ballads and this basically falls in line with them. The best part of the song is really the guitar solo, which nearly takes up the entire second half of the song. Oh, and how can I not mention the song's crazy video that had the Eliminator going to an outer space car wash where the disembodied parts of the band performed the song while a legs-only female attendant takes care of the car. Truly bizarre.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  ZZ Top had tried the ballad approach before, but it was a far less successful experiment. They recorded the more pop-oriented tune "Leila" for their 1981 album El Loco. It was pushed out as the LP's first single and the response was less than positive with the song only getting to #77 on the Pop chart. Fans of the band's Southern boogie sound were less than pleased with the tune with several folks online calling it their worst song. The band skipped the ballads for their next album, the multi-platinum Eliminator, but it seemed for Afterburner they were ready to give it another try and they came up with "Rough Boy." However, while not identical, there are similarities between the two ballads that have led people to believe that "Rough Boy" was just an updated or rewritten version of "Leila." Whether or not ZZ Top recycled their own song is up for debate, but at least the results were much better this time around.


Monday, February 4, 2019

"Never As Good As the First Time" by Sade

Song#:  2669
Date:  03/29/1986
Debut:  71
Peak:  20
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Sade's second album, Promise, reached the #1 spot thanks in part to its first single "The Sweetest Taboo," which made it to #5. Like the band's debut, this album would also eventually sell over four million copies. For a follow-up single, this track was selected. The tune would make it into the Top 10's of both the R&B (#8) and AC (#6) charts while just hitting the Top 20 mark at Pop. Just four days before this song debuted on the Pop chart, Sade won the Grammy for Best New Artist. At the next Grammys, the band would earn a nomination for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for their Promise album.

ReduxReview:  Sade continued her streak of smooth, sleek, and sexy singles with this groovy track. While it may not be as catchy as "The Sweetest Taboo" or "Smooth Operator," it's still a quality jam that gives off a mysterious and exotic vibe. I always feel oddly classy when I listed to Sade. It seems like I should be at some fascinating, sophisticated place like a lounging room in a mansion or at a chic hotel bar all dressed up and carrying around a martini. In other words, Sade's music never fails to transport me someplace interesting.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Band leader and namesake Sade Adu wasn't one for collaborating with other artists. She and her band did their thing and that was it. As rap music grew over the years, several rap artists began incorporating samples of Sade's music in their tracks. Some have even requested to collaborate with Sade, either her writing beats to their songs or her singing on their tracks. Yet she always refused. Her reason for refusal basically boiled down to one thing - a lack of self-confidence. In a Billboard article she mentioned she was afraid to work with other artists because they might find out there is really nothing there. She compared it to being behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz. She nearly asked for Jay-Z to add a rap to her 2010 hit "Soldier of Love" (#6 R&B/#52 Pop), but then chickened out - a decision she said she later regretted. But then the following year she got up enough courage to work with Jay-Z. Their collaboration was on a remix of the song "The Moon and the Sun," which had been a single from Sade's Soldier of Love album (#54 R&B). The new remix would be placed on Sade's 2011 The Ultimate Collection hits package. The remix would be produced by Noah "40" Shebib and would featured a rap by Jay-Z. The collaboration seemed to work out well and perhaps it might open up the possibilities for further collaborative efforts from Sade. 


Sunday, February 3, 2019

"Absolute Beginners" by David Bowie

Song#:  2668
Date:  03/29/1986
Debut:  87
Peak:  53
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Following the release of his 1984 album Tonight, Bowie got an intriguing offer. Filmmaker Julian Temple, with whom Bowie had worked with on his Jazzin' for Blue Jean music video short, was set to direct his first big budget flick Absolute Beginners. Based on the 1959 novel by Colin MacInnes, Temple's filmed version would be a musical. Temple asked Bowie if he would provide a song for the film. After reading the novel and thinking about it, Bowie said yes, but only if he could be in the movie as one of the book's characters. That seemed fine to Temple and Bowie then wrote two songs for the film including this title track tune that got issued out as a single. In the UK, the song would be a major hit for Bowie getting to #2. In the States, the tune would get solid airplay at Rock and would end up at #9 on that chart. However, when it crossed over over to Pop, its appeal wasn't as broad and it halted just shy of the halfway mark. With the single not doing all that great and the movie bombing, the best the soundtrack album could do was a weak #62.

ReduxReview:  I admit that even as a newbie Bowie fan at the time, I kind of missed this one. I know I had heard it a couple of times but since it was from a dud movie and wasn't as hooky and commercial as some of his recent hits, I kind of abandoned it. I have a feeling that a lot of US listeners did the same thing. Meanwhile, the song was a hit back in Bowie's UK homeland and in other countries. I grew an appreciation for the song later when it was part of a "best of" Bowie disc I got. It is a lovely tune with lingering passages that allows the song to breathe. Bowie does some excellent crooning on the track and of course the "bom-bom-ba-ooh's" add extra flavor as does the sax. It's too bad the tune wasn't more popular here.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) It seems that Bowie's title song was the best and most critically acclaimed thing to come from Absolute Beginners. The movie would end up being a box office bomb that garnered terrible reviews. Temple's career as a film director took a big hit. While he would end up directing a few scripted movies over the years, he mainly became known as a go-to director for music videos. He would shoot videos for such high profile artists as Tom Petty, Janet Jackson, Sade, Whitney Houston, Bryan Adams, The Rolling Stones, Duran Duran, and many others. He also directed several rockumentary films as well.  2) UK band The Style Council was also asked to supply a song to the film and they came up with "Have You Ever Had It Blue?" The oddity is that Style Council member Paul Weller had previously written a song called "Absolute Beginners" in 1981 for his previous band The Jam. It was also based on the MacInnes novel. The tune was released as a single in the UK and it got to #4 on the chart.