Saturday, February 16, 2019

"If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)" by Bonnie Tyler

Song#:  2681
Date:  04/12/1986
Debut:  96
Peak:  77
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  With the help of songwriter/producer Jim Steinman, Tyler roared to the top of the Pop chart with her 1983 classic "Total Eclipse of the Heart." The hit helped her album, Faster Than the Speed of Night, reach platinum sales. Tyler and Steinman then began working on a follow-up album and what was to be the first single, "Holding Out for a Hero," became part of the Footloose soundtrack in 1984 (#34 Pop). But then no album was issued. It took nearly two years for Steinman and Tyler to finally assemble and record Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire. It contained "Holding Out for a Hero" and although the song had been release two years prior, it was still considered the LP's first single. The next song to be pushed out as a single was a duet with Todd Rundgren titled "Loving You's a Dirty Job But Somebody's Gotta Do It." The tune would scrape the UK chart at #73, but it was a total non-starter in the US getting nowhere. Then this third single got issued. This time it did make the US Pop chart, but stayed mainly in the basement. It did nearly the equivalent in the UK (#78). With little to promote the album, it stalled at a low #106 in the US and disappeared quickly. The single and album would be Tyler's last to reach a US chart. She would continue to record over the years and have some success in various countries, but she was never able to replicate the results of "Total" or her 1977 #10 hit "It's a Heartache" in the US again.

ReduxReview:  By this point in time, folks were kind of done with the big Steinman epics. The lengthy tunes were getting to sound the same; just more overblown. Once in a while his theatrics were kind of fun. (He'd have another successful period from '93-'96 with Celine Dion's #2 "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" and Meat Loaf's #1 "I Would Do Anything for Love.") So it wasn't a big shock that "Loving You's a Dirty Job" tanked. It just wasn't in the same league as his other epics. In fact, it was quite forgettable - and that is saying something for a Steinman tune. He didn't write this song (see below), but what he did was put his own production spin on it to make it sound nearly as grand as one of his own compositions. It kind of works. It's a strong song with a good arena-ready chorus, but I think it would have been better with a more straight-ahead hard rock arrangement. Also going against Tyler was the lost time between her two albums. This one should have been released right when "Hero" was issued out. It came down to timing and material and Tyler just didn't have either for this album.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Steinman would write four songs for the album. He reached out to others to help fill out the album including Desmond Child, who wrote this song. Child had some minor success with his group Rouge in the late 70s ("Our Love Is Insane," 1979, #51), but it was his songwriting abilities that started to get attention. He wrote key tracks for Kiss ("I Was Made for Lovin' You," 1979, #11) and for Cher's 1982 album I Paralyze. His real breakout year would be 1986 when he would co-write huge hits for Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet album. He would continue to work with all these artists over the years including Tyler. Child would produce her 1988 album Hide Your Heart (released as Notes from America in the US). It would include two songs that would end up being hits for other artists. The Desmond Child/Diane Warren-penned "Save Up All Your Tears" was a non-charting single for Tyler that ended up being a #37 Pop/#16 AC hit for Cher in 1991. Also on Tyler's album was the Mike Chapman/Holly Knight tune "The Best." Tyler's original version would barely scrape the UK chart (#95), but in 1989 Tina Turner would cover the tune and take it to #5 in the UK and #15 in the US.


Friday, February 15, 2019

"Move Away" by Culture Club

Song#:  2680
Date:  04/05/1986
Debut:  68
Peak:  12
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Culture Club's third LP Waking Up with the House on Fire was considered a disappointment reaching only #26. Although it would go platinum, it certainly didn't meet expectations and it failed to secure a Top 10 single ("The War Song" did the best at #17). Relations in the band were fractured, especially between Boy George and Jon Moss (the two had quietly been in a relationship for years), and by the time the band was set to record their fourth LP, a depressed George was hooked on heroin. His drug use didn't help the sessions and it caused many delays. Eventually, they were able to finish From Luxury to Heartache and this track was selected to be the first single. The song did well getting close to the Pop Top 10 while making it to #4 at Dance and #11 AC. It even made a brief appearance on the R&B chart at #87. It was seen as a bit of a comeback, but then a second single, "Gusto Blusto," failed to chart and a planned US tour was cancelled. With nothing else to promote it, the album peaked at #32 and then fell away quickly. By the time summer rolled around, the band called it quits and George headed out on a solo career. The band would stage a reunion in 1998 for an episode of VH1's Storytellers series and the positive response from the show prompted them to release a new album in 1999 titled Don't Mind If I Do. The band would work on-and-off together over the years and in 2018 they put out their sixth album, Life, which garnered positive notices and hit #12 in the UK.

ReduxReview:  This was actually a pretty good return to form for the band. It had a similar vibe to songs found on their Colour By Numbers LP. Yet I always thought the song was a bit slight. It comes off as a wispy ditty when compared to some of their earlier tracks. I think the reason may have been the production. They brought in Arif Mardin for the album and I'm not sure it was a good match. Mardin was a legendary producer, but I don't think he showcased the band's songs very well. This tune needed more of an R&B groove to it with more emphasis on bass and less on the twinkly 80s keyboards. It's not really one of the band's best songs, but I think it could have sounded much better with a different producer.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The VH1 Storytellers performance also prompted an album release. Greatest Moments was a double disc released that combined Culture Club's performance from the show along with a selection of their hits. Also included was a new song that was part of the VH1 live set, but was also recorded in the studio for the hits section of the album. "I Just Wanna Be Loved" was issued out as a single to promote the album and help promote the band's tour. Unfortunately, it didn't make any waves in the US, but in the UK the song took off and became their ninth Top 10 hit (#4). The song would then be included on their 1999 LP Don't Mind If I Do. That album generated two more UK chart songs for the band including the #25 "Your Kisses Are Charity."


Thursday, February 14, 2019

"Tomorrow Doesn't Matter Tonight" by Starship

Song#:  2679
Date:  04/05/1986
Debut:  71
Peak:  26
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This new iteration of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship legacy opened up their new era with a bang. The band's debut album, Knee Deep in the Hoopla, scored back-to-back #1 singles with "We Built This City" and "Sara." It was the first time that any version of the band reached the top spot on the Pop chart and they did it twice. Hoping to squeak out another hit, this third single was released from the album. While it couldn't get near the apex of the chart, it did okay getting inside the Pop Top 30. It managed to do one spot better at Rock reaching #25.

ReduxReview:  The tracks gathered for Knee Deep were meant to take the band in a more commercial direction. In fact, only one song on the LP was written by band members. The ploy certainly paid off with the first two singles. This follow-up wasn't too bad of a choice. It has a good chorus and I like the spacey break section. However, it was nowhere near as memorable as the previous hits and that played out on the charts.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Getting in on the soundtrack game, Starship provided a song for the sports (hockey) drama film Youngblood, which starred Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze. The band supplied the song "Cut You Down to Size" for the film and related soundtrack. The band kind of supplied a second song titled "Stand in the Fire," yet despite using some of the same personnel, the song was solely credited to Starship front man Mickey Thomas. The tune was penned by Diane Warren and was, more or less, set to be the theme song from the film. Most likely, the song had been chosen for the film and Thomas was asked to perform it. He then just used his Starship team for the recording. The song was issued out as a single and it got to #35 at Rock, but it failed to reach the Pop chart. With no real hit to promote it, the soundtrack album, which also had songs by Mr. Mister, John Hiatt, and Nick Gilder, stalled at a lowly #166. The film got lukewarm reviews and was not all that successful at the box office. However, it wasn't a total dud and it later gained a following thanks to VHS rentals. (Side note: The score for the film was done by William Orbit. While not well-known at the time, his name certainly came to the forefront when he collaborated with Madonna on her 1998 album Ray of Light. Orbit co-produced the LP and co-wrote several songs for it including the Grammy-winning title track.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

"Where Do the Children Go?" by The Hooters

Song#:  2678
Date:  04/05/1986
Debut:  78
Peak:  38
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The first three singles from The Hooters' Nervous Night album progressively did better. They ended up getting their biggest hit with the third single "Day By Day" (#18). With those results, the band obviously had to release a fourth single to see if they could keep the upward trend going. This next track was issued out, but it just couldn't outperform "Day By Day." It still did fairly well by cracking the Pop Top 40 while making it to #34 at Rock. This would end the singles from Nervous Night, which would reach #12 and eventually go double platinum. Helping out on vocals for this song was Scandal's Patty Smyth.

ReduxReview:  This mandolin-driven tune was a good one to wrap up the singles run from the album. It has a solid, sing-a-long chorus and the addition of Smyth is quite nice. I wouldn't peg it for a Top 10'er, but it's a good lighter-swaying song that even features their famous "hooter" (the melodica). It probably should have done a bit better on the chart although a Top 40 showing wasn't too bad at all.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Band member Eric Bazillian would later be responsible for writing one of the biggest one-hit-wonders of the 90s. Bazillian penned "One of Us," which was recorded by singer Joan Osborne in 1995. It was included on her debut studio album Relish and was also issued out as the LP's first single. It would reach #4 at Pop and would be a gold selling record. The hit would propel her album to #9 and over time it would be a triple-platinum seller. Osborne and her recordings would be nominated for seven Grammy awards including Best New Artist and Album of the Year. "One of Us" would grab nominations in both the Record and Song of the Year categories. Osborne would walk away empty handed, but it seemed that she had made a mark and was set for stardom. Yet it quickly all fell apart. Oddly, none of the other singles from the album made it to any US chart, which was not a great sign. Osborne then had a tough time navigating the fame that came along with the hit and Grammy nods and when it came time to get back to the studio, she wasn't content to just repeat the sound of Relish or pursue hit material. All of that led to label issues and delays. She wouldn't issue out a proper follow-up album (after a label change) until 2000. The five-year delay certainly didn't help Righteous Love, which failed to produce any chart singles. The LP would then peak at a minor #90. It also left her without a major label deal. With Osborne never securing a second Pop chart entry, her lone big hit made her a true one-hit wonder. However, don't feel too bad for her. She has had a solid fan base for years and has issued out several albums in various styles. Her 2012 R&B/blues cover LP Bring It on Home put her back in the Grammy spotlight again earning a nod for Best Blues Album.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

"All the Things She Said" by Simple Minds

Song#:  2677
Date:  04/05/1986
Debut:  82
Peak:  28
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Simple Minds were on a roll. Their eighth album, Once Upon a Time, grabbed them two Top 20 hits including the #3 "Alive and Kicking." This came on the heels of their breakthrough #1 "Don't You (Forget About Me)." To keep things going, this third single was lifted from the album. It would become their fourth straight Top 10 at Rock getting to #9. At Pop the song didn't do quite as well, but it did making it into the Top 30. It would be the last single released from the album, which would be a #10 gold seller. Unfortunately, it would also mark the end of the band's hit making days in the US. They would not place a song on the Pop chart for the remainder of the 80s.

ReduxReview:  The band was riding a wave of popularity due to their previous three singles and that certainly helped this one along. It's unusual MTV-supported video probably helped as well. I'm pretty certain that without the prior hits, this one wouldn't have even gotten near the Top 40. It's just not a strong single. The only thing I've ever remembered from the song was the title hook. While normally that is a good thing, the problem was that there was nothing else memorable about the song to go with it. I had the same problem with the album as well. Besides the two main hits, nothing stuck with me. I listened to it a couple of times and then filed it away.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although the band would issue out a live album in 1987 titled Live in the City of Lights, they would not put out a new studio album until 1989. Street Fighting Years would be their third consecutive #1 album in the UK. It was boosted by four Top 20 hits including the #1 "Belfast Child," which had first been released as part of an EP a few months prior to the LP's release. Despite the album's success in many countries, it barely registered in the US. None of the singles from the album made an impression ("This Is Your Land" was a minor blip at Rock getting to #37) and that didn't help the album, which stalled out at a low #70. The band's first album of the 90's, Real Life, didn't fare any better, but it did get them a #1 Alternative Rock/#10 Rock track with "See the Lights." The song would also manage to reach #40 at Pop. Their final Pop entry would come in 1995 with the #52 "She's a River" (#6 Rock/#10 Alt. Rock), the lead single from their album Good News from the Next World. Despite the lack of support in the US, Simple Minds would continue to do well in the UK where in the 90s they scored seven Top 20 hits including three Top 10's.


Monday, February 11, 2019

"Is That It?" by Katrina & the Waves

Song#:  2676
Date:  04/05/1986
Debut:  87
Peak:  70
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  With a Top 10 hit and a Top 30 album under their belt, Katrina & the Waves dashed back to the studio to record what would become their fourth LP, Waves. To get things kicked off, this first single was issued out. Unfortunately, the tune just didn't connect with listeners and after a couple of months trying to get a foothold, it finally fell off the Pop chart. It would do even worse in the band's UK home base only reaching #82. However, a follow-up single titled "Sun Street" would do much better there reaching #22. In the US, the song was a non-starter and failed to chart. The less-than-stellar results didn't excite their label (Columbia) and the band was dropped. That could have been the last of the band, but they would return to the US charts before the decade was out and nearly a decade later would score their biggest hit in the UK.

ReduxReview:  This is a solid rock 'n blues rave up sung with gusto by Katrina Leskanich. The production is on-point with the horns and background singers giving the tune a nice boost. I could imagine it being one of those songs that would really get a concert crowd going. So why was it such a dud on the chart? My two guesses would be that it wasn't promoted very well and/or the style of the song just wasn't in fashion on pop radio. "Walking on Sunshine" was also a big rock rave, but that tune's hooks were definitely pop rooted and easier to digest. This one is soul-edged and that can be a harder sell at pop. Yet two years later Stevie Winwood would top the chart with the bluesy "Roll with It," so maybe it was just timing. Regardless, this is a fun song that should have done better.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In 1990, the band got an opportunity to record a song for the soundtrack to an American TV series. China Beach debuted on ABC in 1988 and ran for four seasons. The Emmy-winning show starring Dana Delany centered on an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War. Music was key to a lot of episodes with The Supremes' 1967 #2 hit "Reflections" serving as the show's opening credits theme song. By the time its last season was coming around, a soundtrack album was assembled titled China Beach: Music and Memories. It mixed original songs from the era used in the show as well as new remakes of old hits all connected by snippets of sound effects and spoken word dialog from those who actually served or were at China Beach back during the war. One particular song that was very popular with American forces in Vietnam was The Animals' 1965 #13 hit "We Gotta Get Out of This Place." Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, the song was a definite fit for the soundtrack album. But instead of using the original version, Katrina & the Waves were asked to cover the tune. Joining in on the remake was Eric Burdon from The Animals who had sang the lead vocal on the original hit.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

"Holding Back the Years" by Simply Red

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2675
Date:  04/05/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Blue-Eyed Soul, Adult Contemporary, Sophisti-pop

Pop Bits:  UK Singer/songwriter Mick Hucknall started his career in the late 70s with a punk band he fronted called The Frantic Elevators. After that band broke up in 1984, Hucknall set out to form a new band. They would take on the name Simply Red (mainly due to "Red" being Hucknall's nickname and hair color) and their sound would lean towards the softer, groovier sounds of soul. The band got signed to Elektra Records and in '85 they issued out their first single, which was a cover version of  "Money's Too Tight (To Mention)," a song originally written and recorded by The Valentine Brothers in 1982 (#41 US R&B). It did well in the UK reaching #13. Three more singles were issued out from their debut album Picture Book, including "Holding Back the Years," but nothing really clicked. As '86 was rolling around, "Holding Back the Years" suddenly got a second lease on life. A reissue of the single turned into a significant hit reaching #2 in the UK. It's success then bled over across the pond to the States and by the time summer was in full swing, the tune reached the top of the US Pop chart. It was also a hit at AC getting to #4 while reaching #29 at R&B. The hit helped the album become a platinum seller reaching #16. The band would later grab two Grammy nominations, one for Best New Artist and one for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for this song.

ReduxReview:  The original version of this song was actually quite good (see below). The basis of the song was there and I liked the indie rock sound of it. However, Hucknall turned it into an 80s classic by changing the style, adding the chorus, and doing a slick arrangement that included a pretty sweet muted trumpet. The song is subtle but quite powerful and Hucknall's voice was never better. While I'd never become a real fan of the band, this is their lasting hit that still sounds great decades later. This is also a song that taught me words. There are two lines in the first verse - "strangled by the wishes of pater, hoping for the arms of mater." I had no idea what pater and mater were, but based on context I thought I knew what they might be. Indeed after looking them up my hunch was right. They are old British terms for father and mother based on Latin. Obviously I'll always remember the song itself, but I'll also remember that it introduced me to these words. It's fun when songs can teach!

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Mick Hucknall when he was seventeen. Neil Moss is listed as a co-writer, but apparently it was more of a "thank you" credit. Moss, who was in The Frantic Elevators with Hucknall, didn't write any of the song. Hucknall had his name added to the credits as a way of celebrating their friendship and musical partnership (they wrote several songs together for the band). The Frantic Elevators recorded the song in 1982 and issued it out as an indie single. The band's original version was more of a rock ballad and did not include the repeated chorus line of "I'll keep holding on." Hucknall revived the tune for Simply Red and with a style change and lyrical addition, it turned into a major worldwide hit.