Saturday, March 2, 2019

"Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads

Song#:  2695
Date:  04/19/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  91
Weeks:  4
Genre:  New Wave, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The Talking Heads first released the soundtrack to their concert film Stop Making Sense back in the fall of '84. At the time, singles from the album failed to chart but the success of the movie helped the album get to #41 and it would eventually be a double-platinum seller. While the Heads were in the studio finishing up their seventh studio album, True Stories, this live track from Stop Making Sense got a little bit of attention. At the time it was being used in the hit film Down and Out in Beverly Hills in both the opening and closing credits. Thanks to the flick, interest in the song grew and the single version of the song was able to get on the Pop chart for a short month. Oddly, even though the song was in the film, it was not included on the associated soundtrack album, probably due to rights issues.

ReduxReview:  I love this song, but like most live stuff it was most likely better in person or at least when watching Stop Making Sense. Watching David Byrne dance to this is mesmerizing and it makes the live version so much better when you have a visual. On its own, the band doesn't really add much of anything to make it more interesting than the original studio version. It's a standard reading of the tune. Obviously, it's a great track but I'd rather hear the original or watch the movie.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The original version of this song first appeared on the band's 1980 album Remain in Light. It was released as a single, but it failed to crack the Pop chart in the US. It did reach the Dance chart at #20. The story was different in the UK where the single made it to #14. It has since become a classic not only in the band's catalog, but in rock music in general. It made the list of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll." It is one of two Talking Heads songs that made the list. The other was "Life During Wartime" (1979, #80 Pop).


Friday, March 1, 2019

"Tuff Enuff" by The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2694
Date:  04/19/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  10
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Blues-Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This Texas blues-rock band headed up by Kim Wilson formed in the mid-70s. After a few years of gigging around and gaining a following, the band got signed to Tacoma Records and issued a debut LP in 1979. Tacoma was then bought by Chrysalis, which put the band on a major label. They would release three albums for Chrysalis including 1981's Butt Rockin', which included a pair of near-Top 40 Rock tracks. However, album sales were minimal and Chrysalis finally cut ties with the band. It would be another four years of work before another major label showed interest in them. EMI would take a chance on the band and sign them in 1986. For their first effort for the label, Tuff Enuff, the label would bring in Dave Edmunds as producer to help shape the band's brand of blues-rock into something more mainstream. The LP contained this title-track, which did double duty as the first single from the album along with being used in the Ron Howard film Gung Ho. After a slow start, the song gained momentum and made it to #4 at Rock and #10 Pop. The hit would help the album get to #13 and eventually it would go platinum.

ReduxReview:  Dave Edmunds was certainly a sound choice as producer for the band. For this particular track it seemed that he put a little commercialized ZZ Top spin on it. The song works well because it does a good job straddling the line between the blues and radio-friendly rock. It was able to lure pop listeners too, but the longevity of a blues-based artist on the Pop chart is usually quite limited, so the band had their work cut out for them to try and follow this up.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In addition to being used in the film Gung Ho, the song was also used in the 1986 film Tough Guys. The caper comedy starred two legendary actors, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. The pair had made several films together over the years and this one would end up being their last. The movie ended up getting mixed reviews and didn't do all that great at the box office. It would be one of the last theatrical films Lancaster would make before his death in 1994. The film also featured comedian Dana Carvey in a small role. Just around the time this film was getting released, Carvey was making his debut on Saturday Night Live.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

"Your Wildest Dreams" by The Moody Blues

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2693
Date:  04/19/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  9
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Synthpop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The 80s started off well for the classic rock band with their #1 album Long Distance Voyager and its two Pop Top 20 hits. Yet the Moodies still had not had a Pop Top 10 single since 1972's "Nights in White Satin" (#2), which had actually first been a failed single in 1967. For their twelfth studio album The Other Side of Life, the band wanted to keep their sound current and brought in producer Tony Visconti (of David Bowie fame) to help shape their music for the mid-80s. With a more synth-based, programmed sound, the band released this first single. The nostalgic tune wasn't an immediate hit debuting low on the Pop chart, but then a clever video started gaining attention on MTV and the song began climbing the chart. It would eventually reach the Pop Top 10 while hitting #1 at AC and #2 Rock. After a 14-year wait and 22 years after their first ("Go Now," #10, 1964), the Moodies finally grabbed their third Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  This is a lovely tune written by the band's lead singer Justin Hayward and even though it sounds a bit dated now, the synth-led production was just right for it at the time. The song is well-written with great melodies and it stands on its own, but I do think the video had quite a bit to do with the song's success. It had a nostalgic storyline that was effective and even a bit moving. It did play like a 4-minute mini-movie. Billboard would even name it their Video of the Year. The tone of the song and the theme of the video married well and it hit all the right buttons for many folks. It was a well-deserved late-career Top 10 for the band.


Trivia:  The video featured a flashback to what appeared to be the early days of the The Moody Blues. The guys who portrayed the younger band members were actually a UK mod revival band called Mood Six. They formed in 1981 and the following year signed with EMI. A couple of singles were issued that went nowhere and the band was dropped. They would go on and issue a few albums for some indie labels, but the band never really hit the big time. The main claim to fame would be their appearance in the Moody Blues video. However, their first single "Hanging Around," would end up being covered by US artist Toni Basil. The song would not appear on her debut album Word of Mouth in the US, but it did make it on to the UK version of the LP. It was also the b-side to her single "Mickey" there as well. The song would see the light of day in the US on the 1994 compilation The Best of Toni Basil: Mickey and Other Love Songs.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

"If Your Heart Isn't in It" by Atlantic Starr

Song#:  2692
Date:  04/19/1986
Debut:  97
Peak:  57
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  It took seven albums, but Atlantic Starr finally scored a major hit on the Pop chart with "Secret Lovers" (#3). The song was their fourth R&B Top 10 reaching #4 and their first to hit #1 at AC. It was the fourth single from their album As the Band Turns, but because it was such a major hit a follow-up single seemed appropriate. This track was selected to be issued out and it did equally as well as "Secret Lovers" on the R&B chart getting to #4 as well as reaching #11 at AC. However, it lost its footing at Pop and tripped before getting into the top half of the chart.

ReduxReview:  Why the obvious hit "Secret Lovers" was the fourth (?!) single remains a mystery, but since it really broke the band wide they had to do a follow up. This ballad was selected and it ended up doing quite well at R&B and AC. For some reason, it just didn't click as well at Pop. While it's not as memorable "Secret Lovers," it was still a good song and probably should have at least made the Top 40.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Hamish Stuart. From 1972 to 1983, Stuart was a member of the Scottish funk/R&B group Average White Band. In addition to guitar, bass, and vocal contributions, Stuart also wrote songs for the band. He co-wrote their two biggest hits, 1974's "Pick Up the Pieces" (#1 Pop/#5 R&B) and 1975's "Cut the Cake" (#10 Pop/#7 R&B). The band would score three top 10 albums during the 70's including the #1 AWB in 1974. Hamish would also work for Chaka Khan in the late 70s/early 80s and would co-write her 1981 #1 R&B hit "What Cha' Gonna Do for Me" (#53 Pop).


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

"Live to Tell" by Madonna

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert
Song#:  2691
Date:  04/12/1986
Debut:  49
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  In the time since Madonna's 1984 album Like a Virgin was released, she had amassed four Top 10 hits from the LP along with one from a soundtrack. She could have easily taken a break after the supporting tour, but she got right back to work coming up with songs for her upcoming third album True Blue. One of her collaborators, Patrick Leonard, had written a theme for potential use in a movie. He played it for Madonna who then wrote lyrics for it and created a bridge section. In addition to being on the new album, she thought it might work well for her husband Sean Penn's upcoming film At Close Range. The song would be featured in the film and it would be issued out as a single a couple of month's prior to True Blue. It debuted in the top half of the Pop chart and then made a beeline for the #1 spot. It would also become Madonna's first song to hit #1 at AC. The single would be her third #1 and eighth consecutive Top 10.

ReduxReview:  Madonna had done a couple of ballads including the #1 "Crazy for You," so she was certainly able to pull them off, but I don't think anything prepared folks for this atmospheric stunner. This one took Madonna to a whole new level. It was like hearing her grow up overnight. There was a new maturity to this song both lyrically and vocally that raised the bar. Let's face it - Madonna can sing, but she is not a singer. No one is going to mistake her for Streisand, but that is fine. The key to a voice like hers is putting something behind it that conveys the lyrics or feeling of the song - to make people believe it - and she does that here. Madonna is more than capable of that and I find this one to be one of her best and most honest performances. Before auto-tune came along and made everyone icily perfect, there were still chances for artists to really put it all out there warts and all. Yeah, there was still some studio trickery back in the day to fix little things, but you couldn't (and still can't) add actual feelings to vocals. I think this is a genuine performance from Madge and that made it all the more special.


Trivia:  Patrick Leonard initially wrote the music to this song for a film titled Fire with Fire. He had hopes that the tune would lead to him scoring the movie as well. He submitted it to the studio, but they rejected it and Leonard. He then took it to Madonna who fleshed it out and did a demo. Thinking it would be a fit for Sean Penn's new film, the tape was presented to the director. He not only accepted the song, but then hired Leonard to compose the full score (at the suggestion of Madonna, of course). At Close Range, which also starred Christopher Walken, was pushed out to theaters the week after this song debuted on the Pop chart. It was received quite well by critics but despite the accolades and the hit song, audiences ignored the film and it ended up a box office dud. As for Fire with Fire, it didn't do much better. The film starred Virginia Madsen and Craig Sheffer and critical reception was not all that great. It too was not a box office success. So who ended up getting the scoring job for that film? An up-n-coming composer named Howard Shore. Shore had a few films under his belt including the horror flicks Scanners and Videodrome. He would go on to be one of Hollywood's leading film scorers. He is probably best known for supplying the music to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, work which netted him three Oscars.


Monday, February 25, 2019

"Be Good to Yourself" by Journey

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2690
Date:  04/12/1986
Debut:  51
Peak:  9
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the success of their 1983 LP Frontiers, Journey decided to take a little break. Frontman Steve Perry ventured into solo territory with a hit album while guitarist Neal Schon did well with his side project Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve. Three years would pass before the band would finally get back together to start work on their ninth studio album. They announced the arrival of the new LP, titled Raised on Radio, with this first single that was issued out ahead of the album's release. The song was a welcome shot of arena rock that landed at #2 at Rock and became their sixth Pop Top 10. The hit would help the album get to #4 and go double-platinum. However, this song would end up being their last to reach the Pop Top 10 and the band wouldn't release another album for a decade.

ReduxReview:  I've always loved the big power pop beginning of this tune. It really made a statement and after being out of the spotlight for a few years Journey needed something with punch to announce they were back. This song did the trick. It's also quite joyous and inspirational, which a bit unusual for Journey. They didn't often do bright tunes like this and it was something different that still maintained their arena rock sound. Unfortunately, the rest of the album wasn't nearly as good as this tune. Let's just say that Perry's time in the pop spotlight certainly had lingering effects. At least they had this rockin' tune that was a solid addition to their hits catalog.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  If you ever watched American Idol and heard judge Randy Jackson say (to Simon Cowell's chagrin and chastisement), "when I was with Journey...," well here he is! When Journey convened to make Raised on Radio, dynamics in the band had changed. Steve Perry had moved over into the producer's chair and it seemed that the music he was writing with Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon was less like rock and more like pop. Bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith weren't keen on Perry's approach and the tension that came about due to that led to the pair being dismissed from the band. Valory was an original member of the band and Smith had joined in 1978. Down two members, the band had to bring in session players to finish off the recording. The band was already familiar with Randy Jackson as he had supplied some bass parts to the Frontiers song "After the Fall" (#23 Pop). They not only brought Jackson in to play on the album, but had him accompany them on the supporting tour. Unfortunately, Journey then went on hiatus for nearly a decade and Jackson went back to session work and working behind the scenes as a producer and as an executive for a couple major labels (and then, of course, American Idol). Had Journey stayed together after Raised on Radio, who knows what would have happened. Perhaps Jackson might have become a full-time member.


Sunday, February 24, 2019

"Mothers Talk" by Tears for Fears

Song#:  2689
Date:  04/12/1986
Debut:  67
Peak:  27
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The UK duo exploded on the US charts with their second album Songs from the Big Chair. It would reach the apex of the chart thanks to two #1 singles and a further #3 hit, "Head Over Heels." By this point in time the album had run its course in the band's UK homeland after a run of five singles. The US was late to the game and only three singles in, so it seemed logical to issue out a fourth single. This particular track was actually the first single lifted from the album in the UK. It was released late summer of '84 and got to #14. Over a year and a half later, the tune would be scheduled for release in the US. However, instead of pushing out the standard album version of the song, the duo decided to go back into the studio and record a brand new version. It was dubbed the US Remix even though it was a new recording, not a remix. The single was issued out yet even in it's newly recorded form the song couldn't do any better than the Pop Top 30. It would be nearly three years before the duo would hit the charts again.

ReduxReview:  It really doesn't matter whether I'm listening to the original version or the US redo because neither of them are very memorable. The only thing that comes to mind if I see this title is the "we can work it out" part. And that's after having to think about it for a bit. It was a weak single contender to begin with so trying to make it more palatable for the US release was an interesting idea, but that's about all it was. They didn't necessarily make it any more commercial that it already was. The new version just had a slicker sound when compared to the more punchy original, which actually I prefer. It certainly wasn't a bad idea to give this fourth single a go. It's just no matter what they did to the tune it wasn't strong enough to go much further than it did.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The duo's first two singles in the UK, 1981's "Suffer the Children" and 1982's "Pale Shelter (You Don't Give Me Love)," failed to capture anyone's attention and didn't chart. Both songs were re-recorded for their debut album The Hurting. The new version of "Pale Shelter" would be issued as a single in 1983 and would reach #5 in the UK. With singles from Songs from the Big Chair exhausted in the UK, the label decided to push out some reissues to keep the band's momentum going (along with album sales). The album version of "Suffer the Children" would be issued out first and it ended up reaching #52. "Pale Shelter" would be circulated again and on its second go-round it made it to #73.