Saturday, March 30, 2019

"Fire with Fire" by Wild Blue

Song#:  2723
Date:  05/17/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  71
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This Chicago-based band featuring lead singer Renee Varo caught the attention of Chrysalis Records who signed them sometime in '85. At the time, the band was unaware that the label's real interest was in Varo and they sent her and the band's keyboardist Joe Zanona (both were the main co-writers of the band's songs) to London to record some tracks for an album with session musicians. They returned to L.A. and finished up the recordings with the band's guitarist Frank Barbalace. They also recorded the song "Fire with Fire," which was written specifically for an upcoming film of the same name. Chas Sandford, who co-wrote John Waite's "Missing You," wrote and produced the track. It would be included on the band's upcoming debut album No More Jinx, which sported a cover that only featured Varo and Zanona. Due to Chrysalis' meddling with the band, their bassist and drummer took off and had to be replaced. When the dust settled, the album was completed and the theme song to the Fire with Fire film got issued out as the band's first single. The tune made it to the Pop chart, but only stayed for a few weeks before disappearing. A second single, "International Language of Dance," failed to chart and that doomed the album. Unhappy with their Chrysalis experience, the band left the label and signed on with the CBS affiliated label Pasha. They recorded an album under the new name of Primitive Prayer, but the LP got shelved and that result finally brought an end to the band.

ReduxReview:  This is all total speculation from me, but my guess is that Chrysalis might have asked Pat Benatar to record this song (she was on that label) and after she declined they sought out Wild blue due to Renee Varo's voice, which has some similarities to Benatar's. Maybe not, but seems logical. This resides in the same community of hit songs by Benatar, Scandal, T'Pau, etc. It's a pretty good commercial rocker and Varo sells it quite well, but it just couldn't find an audience. Sandford's production is also solid. It's a shame this didn't catch on as the band's debut album had a couple of nice tracks that could have been single-worthy. Interesting find.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) When the band began they performed under the name Jinx and apparently had that name when they got signed to Chrysalis. However, they later found out that another performer had been using that name for many years and didn't want to part with it, so the band was forced to make a change. They then became Wild Blue. For the title of their debut album, they decided to pay a sort of tribute to their old name by calling it No More Jinx, which also described their new situation - they were no longer Jinx.  2) The romantic drama Fire with Fire starred Virginia Madsen and Craig Sheffer as a pair of young lovers on the run. She was a student at a Catholic girls school while he was forced to be at an honor probation camp. They meet, fall for each other, and then run away together to escape their parents, the school, the camp, and the law. The plot was based on an actual event that happened. It was then chronicled by writer Sharon Boorstin in a 1978 New West magazine article titled "Something's Coming, Something Good." The movie was not a critical or box office success. The original title of the film was Captive Hearts, but then after this song was written, producers decided to change the movie's title to match the song's title.


Friday, March 29, 2019

"We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off" by Jermaine Stewart

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2722
Date:  05/17/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  5
Weeks:  22
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Stewart's debut album, The Word Is Out, was a modest seller thanks to the title track reaching #17 at R&B and #41 Pop. Follow-up singles failed to chart, but his label seemed confident he had more to offer and let Stewart head back into the studio to record his second LP, Frantic Romantic. For the majority of tracks, Stewart worked with hot-at-the-time producer Narada Michael Walden. Walden would produce seven of the album's nine tracks and would also co-write four of them including this first single. When it was released near the beginning of '86, the tune made it to the R&B chart, but it peaked at a low #64 in late March. It also got to #41 on the Dance chart. At the time it failed to make the Pop chart, but for whatever reason, nearly two months later the song started to get picked up by Pop radio. After a low debut, the song slowly climbed the chart until it finally got inside the Top 10. It would be Stewart's first and only song to reach the Pop Top 10. The hit helped the album become his best seller reaching #34 at Pop and #31 R&B.

ReduxReview:  When I hear this song I always thing about when I was a DJ at a skating rink. The owners of the rink were just a bit on the conservative side and on occasion they would ban a song from being played, mainly due to lyrics. The kids loved this song and I got to play it a couple of times before one of the owners told me not to play it anymore because of the lyrics. It kind of confused me and I asked him if he knew this song was about abstinence and it wasn't dirty. He said that he knew that and was fine with it, but what he objected to was the line "and drink some cherry wine." Apparently he thought it promoted alcohol and he didn't want to expose kids to that message. I thought it weird considering some of the other songs we played that had far worse lyrics (which they just were oblivious to). Of course I obliged but told him it was the #1 requested song at the rink. He told me if anyone had issues, send them to him. So I did. He was hounded by about twenty tweens and teenagers asking why they couldn't skate to that song. After about a day or so, he relented and the record went back in the mix. Ah, the DJ days. Anyway, this was a fun song that many folks enjoyed, but it also had a bit of a dark undertone. It came along during the heyday of AIDS and it was kind of meant to be a message to be careful. At the time, the general public didn't know Jermaine Stewart was gay, so the underlying message may have been missed by some. Sadly, Steward died from AIDS-related cancer later in 1997. So while the song is a good jam to hear, it has a poignant side as well.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was directed by David Fincher. Fincher's career began to take off when he started working on music videos. His first ones were for Rick Springfield and The Motels. The letterbox style of filming that he did for Stewart's track got him further attention and more work would follow. He would end up winning two Grammys and three MTV Music Video awards for his work with artists like The Rolling Stones and Madonna (her famous "Vogue" video). He expanded his talents to directing films beginning with 1992's Alien 3, but his second film, Seven, really put him on the map. He would go on to direct hit films like Fight Club and Panic Room along with a couple that got him Oscar nods for Best Director - 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and 2010's The Social Network.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

"Vanity Kills" by ABC

Song#:  2721
Date:  05/17/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  91
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Dance-Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  After experiencing a bit of a sophomore slump with their second album Beauty Stab, ABC made a comeback with their third effort How to Be a...Zillionaire! It contained their first US Top 10 hit, "Be Near Me" (#9). The LP's second single, "(How to Be A) Millionaire," also did fairly well making it to #20. The band hoped the hit streak would continue with this third single and indeed it did well at clubs and reached #5 on the Dance chart. Unfortunately, the song couldn't get anywhere on the Pop chart and after a month near the bottom, it disappeared. A fourth single, "Ocean Blue," would be released but it failed to reach any US chart. While it would miss the gold mark, the album did well reaching #30.

ReduxReview:  This was another good track from the band and one that I thought might have gotten into the Top 40. It worked fine at Dance, but for some reason it just couldn't gain an audience at Pop. While not in the same league as some of their best hits, it was still a fine song and a valid choice for a single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  There were two very different videos shot for this song. For the UK market, the four members perform the song in front of a black background while various edits and techniques, such as stop-action, are used to manipulate the images. For the US market, the video was more elaborate and played more like a film. Unlike the UK version which featured all four band members at the time (Martin Fry and Mark White were the main members while Eden and David Yarritu had marginal roles), the US version just had Fry and White involved. The duo played a couple of detectives (or possibly thieves) who spy on various characters. The pair is also shown performing the song in some kind of Las Vegas-style review. It was directed by Peter Care. It was one of his first music videos and he would go on to do many others including ones for Tina Turner, Bananarama, Belinda Carlisle, Bruce Springsteen, and R.E.M. He also directed R.E.M.'s concert film Road Movie (1996). Care would direct one feature film, the 2002 coming of age comedy-drama The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys. The film was well-received and it won Care the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

"When the Heart Rules the Mind" by GTR

Song#:  2720
Date:  05/10/1986
Debut:  74
Peak:  14
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Former Yes guitarist Steve Howe found success as part of the new supergroup Asia whose #1 self-titled debut was one of 1982's biggest hits. After a shaky second LP, Howe just wasn't happy with the direction of the band and decided to leave. Still wanting to be part of a band, Howe decided to develop one and wanted to work with former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. The pair had the idea to skip actual keyboard synths and apply the new MIDI technology of the day to their guitars to help cue up synthesized sounds. They brought three other members on board including lead singer Max Bacon and GTR was born. Geoff Downes, who had been in Yes and Asia with Howe, was hired on as producer. Howe and Hackett would co-write the majority of tunes on the band's self-titled debut album including this first single. It would be a hit on Rock radio reaching #3 on that chart. The tune also did well at Pop where it got inside the Top 20. The album would peak at #11 and eventually go gold.

ReduxReview:  Although the album leaned more towards prog rock, this single is right out of the commercial AOR playbook and not too far off from what Howe and Downes were doing in Asia - minus a keyboard player. I always found it odd around this time that these "supergroups" would get formed and for the most part the music they would come up with wasn't all that different from the bands they were in previously. It's like one member of a band will not be happy because he doesn't get his way, leaves, starts a new band, and the result is basically like the old band with maybe a minor tweak of some kind. The main problem was that egos got in the way. The one good thing is that these supergroups could usually get at least one solid, chart-oriented track out and for GTR it was this one.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Back in the day before everyone was using ProTools for recording, if you went into a studio with a big mixing console, there was usually a long piece of gaffer's tape (typically white) either above or below the volume controls on the board. The engineer would then write the names of the instruments, voices, etc. on the tape so they knew what was assigned to each set of controls. They would sometimes use abbreviations for certain instruments to keep things neat and concise and a common one to see for the guitar channel would be "GTR." Since Howe's new band wanted to be guitar based/controlled, they took their name from the console abbreviation.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

"If She Knew What She Wants" by The Bangles

Song#:  2719
Date:  05/10/1986
Debut:  80
Peak:  29
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The Bangles broke through with the Prince-penned "Manic Monday," the first single from their second album Different Light. It was a #2 smash that really pushed the all-female band into the limelight. This follow-up single couldn't quite reach the heights of their previous hit, but it made a slight impression getting into the Top 30 on both the Pop and AC (#24) charts. As this song began climbing the chart, the album initially peaked just outside the Top 10 at #12. But their next single would push the album up to #2 and help it become a triple platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  I thought this breezy tune was a good follow-up to "Manic Monday." It wasn't' a song with a huge hook or one that commanded your attention when heard on the radio. It was just an easy-going pop tune that was a pleasure to hear. I thought for sure it would get up near the Top 10 but it stalled way short. It just didn't seem to catch on and may have been a bit too casual to break through a noisy 80s chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  On the band's debut LP, 1984's All Over the Place, they wrote all but two of the album's eleven songs.  On Different Light, they had a hand in seven of the twelve tracks. The other five consisted of three new songs by other composers and two remakes. This single was one of the remakes. It was originally written and recorded by singer/songwriter Jules Shear for his 1985 album The Eternal Return. That LP featured Shear's only Pop chart single, the #57 "Steady," a song he co-wrote with Cyndi Lauper. He issued out "If She Knew What She Wants" as a follow up, but it failed to chart. 


Monday, March 25, 2019

"Don Quichotte" by Magazine 60

Song#:  2718
Date:  05/10/1986
Debut:  82
Peak:  56
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Synthpop, Europop, Dance

Pop Bits:  This French band was founded by producer Jean-Luc Drion in the early 80s. Their first album in 1981, 60's Slows, was a Stars on 45-style LP that featured a lengthy medley of hit ballads from the 60's like "The Sound of Silence" and "A Whiter Shade of Pale." It ended up being a hit in France and two years later they did a second medley album based on hit 60's guitar instrumentals assembled with a hand-clap beat. But with the medley fad fading, the band decided to work up some original songs. They issued out a couple of singles, but it was this one that garnered a lot of attention. It would reach #10 in France in 1984 and then begin to spread to other countries. Eventually, the song made its way to the US and it ended up being a sizable hit on the Dance chart getting to #16. It crossed over to Pop and nearly made it into the Top 50. An album titled Costa Del Sol was assembled, but by the time it was released in the US, this song had long faded from the charts and with nothing else to promote it, the LP quickly disappeared. The band then went their separate ways with Drion going on to form the duo Monte Kristo. They would have a little success with a Top 10 hit in France titled "Girl of Lucifer."

ReduxReview:  This song is so bizarre that it just had to be a Dance hit. I can totally see folks packing the dance floor and having fun to this popcorn jam. The wonderfully awful video for the song only enhances the craziness of this tune. I have no idea as to what the song is about. It's in Spanish and some English and makes zero sense to me, but assume it has something to do with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Yet I really don't care. When I first heard it my initial reaction was "this is awful." But then further listens started to get me hooked. Then the video just made me crack up. Is this quality material? Hell no. It's terrible. Yet it was produced well and there was something endearing and fun about the tune and the video that made me like it. Like the old saying goes - it's like a car wreck you just can't stop looking at.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) A sample of this song was used by Black-Eyed Peas frontman for his solo single "I Got It from My Mama" in 2007. It was the first single from his third solo album Songs About Girls. The tune would get to #31 on the Pop chart.  2) In 1980, Drion worked as an arranger/conductor on the second album by French singer Patrick Hernandez. Hernandez shot to fame thanks to his 1979 disco tune "Born to Be Alive." It was a massive hit in France becoming one of the country's biggest selling singles of all time. It also did well in the US reaching #1 at Dance and #16 Pop, and it would be a certified gold seller. With the song doing well, Hernandez was set up to do a tour of the US. He needed backup dancers and auditions were held in NYC to fill the spots. One dancer who aced the audition was a young Madonna Ciccone. Now, depending on what you read and who you believe, the stories on Madonna and Hernandez vary. From what I gather, Madonna got the job and worked with Hernandez. But Hernandez and his team thought she had the goods to do more and wanted to turn her into a star. They invited Madonna to Paris and she took the opportunity (and along the way it seems she and Hernandez were an item for a short bit). They wanted her to record a disco track, but she wasn't having it. She wanted to record a different style of music. After three months of nothing happening, Madonna said adieu and went back to the States. Soon she would become a worldwide superstar.


Sunday, March 24, 2019

"Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2717
Date:  05/10/1986
Debut:  85
Peak:  2
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  At this point in time, two of Loggins' three Top 10 hits were from movie soundtracks including the 1984 #1 "Footloose." His 1985 album that followed that smash, Vox Humana, was expected to be a big seller, but it stalled at gold-level sales due to the lack of a significant hit. While figuring out his next step, Loggins was asked to sing this Giorgio Moroder/Tom Whitlock composition that was slated to be used in an upcoming film titled Top Gun, which starred Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer. Loggins accepted the job and proceeded to record the tune with Moroder producing. Selected as the first single from the soundtrack album, it would be issued out a couple of weeks before the movie's premier. Luckily, the film was a big hit and that helped the song peak right near the top of the Pop chart becoming Loggins' third Top 10 hit from a soundtrack. The album would also be a major hit spending five non-consecutive weeks at #1. It would go on to sell over nine million copies.

ReduxReview:  Moroder is not necessarily known for writing and producing rock tracks, but he did a damn fine job on this one. I love the mysterious verse that's minus the snare sound and accented by fills which then leads to a crashing into the chorus. I used to crank this on my stereo and it sounded meaty and mighty. It's a hooky track that's not too complicated or overdone. The song was perfect for Top Gun and it was exciting to hear in the film and on the radio. "Footloose" may be Loggins' classic film song, but this one is nearly as good.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Although it seemed like getting Loggins to do this song was a no-brainer thanks to his track record of film hits, he was actually the fifth act asked to do the job. The producers first wanted Toto to record the tune and it seems they were up for doing it and contributing a love song called "Only You" to the soundtrack, but legal issues arose and Toto bailed. Bryan Adams was in contention as well. Producers wanted to use one of Adams' songs and thought he could perform "Danger Zone" as well, but Adams declined as he though the film glorified war. REO Speedwagon was given a shot to do the tune, but because producers declined their request to have one of their original songs on the album as well, they dropped out. Corey Hart was approached for the job, but he didn't want to sing someone else's song. Finally, a call went to Loggins and a Top 10 hit was born.