Saturday, April 20, 2019

"Love Touch" by Rod Stewart

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2744
Date:  05/31/1986
Debut:  54
Peak:  6
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Stewart's 1984 album Camouflage was a return to form going gold and spawning two Top 10 hits including the #6 "Infatuation." For his next effort, Every Beat of My Heart, Stewart did most of the album with producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss). The lone exception was this track that was co-written by Mike Chapman, Holly Knight, and Gene Black, and produced by Chapman. The song was selected to not only be the lead single for the album, but also the theme for the courtroom comedy film Legal Eagles. It would be a sizable hit reaching #5 at AC while becoming Stewart's eighth Pop Top 10. It would also get to #26 at Rock. Yet the hit didn't necessarily ignite sales of the album, which peaked at #28 and missed out on going gold.

ReduxReview:  This is such a dorky song. It's a bit skeevy too with the lyrics "I wanna give you my love touch." I'm not exactly sure what is meant by "love touch," but if someone said that to me I'd be like - hell no. Even in some liner notes on a hits compilation, Stewart mentioned this was one of the silliest songs he's ever recorded. I agree. It should be a total zero of a song, yet I have to admit that there is something about that synth-steel drum riff and Stewart's cooing vocal that hooked me. It apparently appealed to others as well since the song cracked the Top 10. Yeah it's a goofy tune and certainly wouldn't make a list citing Stewart's best songs, but it's a fun little ditty that I wouldn't mind tossing in a playlist somewhere.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The film Legal Eagles was a rom-com vehicle for Robert Redford and newly minted star Debra Winger. It was Winger's first big budget film following the 1-2 punch of An Officer and a Gentleman and Terms of Endearment, both of which earned her Best Actress Oscar nods. Redford was just coming off of his co-starring appearance in the Oscar-winning Out of Africa. With Ivan Reitman directing, the movie seemed like a sure-bet to do well. It opened to mixed reviews, but ended up doing fairly well at the box office. The film's $40 million budget was extravagant at the time and its US gross barely covered that, but the worldwide take helped to keep it from being a money loser. The film was originally devised as a buddy comedy that would star Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray, but Murray ended up dropping out of the film. Redford was looking to do a rom-com at the time, so the script was rewritten and Winger was brought on board.


Friday, April 19, 2019

"Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" by Pet Shop Boys

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2743
Date:  05/31/1986
Debut:  65
Peak:  10
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Dance, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  The UK duo made quite a splash with their #1 single "West End Girls." The unusual rap/sung tune could have easily made Pet Shop Boys a one-hit wonder act, but luckily this next single would catch on and reach the Pop Top 10. It also got to #3 at Dance. The two hits helped the album get to #7 and it would become a certified platinum seller. This single would also be the only one in the duo's catalog where it did better in the US than in the UK. At home, the single stopped at the dreaded #11 spot.

ReduxReview:  This was just the right tune to follow-up "West End Girls." It was different enough to not be a repeat of that hit and it stood out on its own as a terrific song. I also think folks dug the "let's make lots of money" phrase even though many folks misinterpreted the song's meaning. I even remember back in the day that when my friends and I had and idea of some kind - like throwing a theme party - we'd say something like "you got the looks and I got the brain, so let's do it!" Pet Shop Boys were able to avoid being a one-hit wonder, but they did have a harder task ahead to overcome - the sophomore slump.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This was actually the third version of the song. When Pet Shop Boys first did sessions with producer Bobby Orlando in 1983, this was one of the songs they recorded. It would not be released. After signing with Parlophone, they re-recorded the tune with producer J.J. Jeczalik and it became their first single for the label early in 1985. It got to a very low #116 on the UK chart. Despite the song not clicking, the Boys returned to the studio to work with producer Stephen Hague. Their first song with Hague was a re-recording of "West End Girls," which would be the single that would break the duo on the chart. They continued to record the balance of their debut album, Please, with Hague and that included a revamping of "Opportunities." In the UK it would be the LP's third single whereas in the US it would be their second. It took three tries, but the Boys were finally able to make a hit out of the song.


Thursday, April 18, 2019

"Take It Easy" by Andy Taylor

Song#:  2742
Date:  05/31/1986
Debut:  85
Peak:  24
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Taylor initially found fame as the guitarist for Duran Duran. He then had success as part of the splinter group The Power Station. Even though that band would break up, Taylor remained alongside producer Bernard Edwards and helped out on the hugely successful album by Power Station lead singer Robert Palmer. Taylor was on a roll and even though he was supposed to return to Duran Duran after their hiatus, he began moving towards a solo career. His first effort out on his own was co-writing and performing three songs for the soundtrack to the 1986 film American Anthem. One track was an instrumental while the other two were vocal tracks including this one, which would end up being the first single released from the soundtrack. The song did fairly well cracking the Pop Top 30. While it wasn't a major hit, it did boost Taylor's confidence in having a solo career and soon he was out of Duran Duran.

ReduxReview:  This song blatantly rips off two things. First, there is little doubt that the opening of this song and its guitar riff are nearly the same as that of "Get It On (Bang a Gong)," the T. Rex classic that just happened to have been remaded by Taylor's former band The Power Station. Second, the production is a spot-on imitation of what Bernard Edwards did with Power Station. In fact, all you had to do was have Robert Palmer do the vocal on this and it would have been a hit for Power Station. Although you can't get sued for copying a production style (at least not yet), I'm surprised no one called out Taylor for the T. Rex...homage, shall we say? Yet even though Taylor recycles a couple of things he'd learned from Power Station, I have to say that the song's chorus is stupidly catchy (even though it nearly sounds like The Bellamy Brothers' "Let Your Love Flow"). It's a fun rock anthem that probably should have done much better on the chart. It's almost good enough to make me forget about Taylor's Xerox-ing here...almost...

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The 1984 US men's Olympic gymnastic team would be the first, and as of this posting date, only U.S. men's team to win the gold medal in the team event. It was a major victory and it made celebrities out of the team members. The team was led by Mitch Gaylord who became the first American to ever score a perfect ten in an Olympic gymnastic event. It certainly helped the team to the win. Gaylord would then go on to win a silver and two bronzes in the individual events. The medal haul made Gaylord the standout star from the Olympics and of course that brought along many opportunities. One offer that came his way was to star in a film. The movie would be about a gymnast (obviously) who dropped out of competing, but is then later convinced to start again by a female gymnast he begins to date (Janet Jones). The film was not liked by critics and it was not a box office hit. Gaylord would receive a Razzie nomination for Worst New Star. Although he'd make occasional appearances on TV and a few other films, Gaylord mainly supported men's gymnastics as an NBC commentator.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"Karen" by B.E. Taylor Group

Song#:  2741
Date:  05/31/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  94
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Pittsburgh-based band grabbed a minor chart hit in 1984 with "Vitamin L" (#66) a track from their second album Love Won the Fight. However, it seemed the results weren't good enough for their label at the time, MCA, and the group was left without a record deal. They ended up recording an EP later in '84 titled Life Goes On and apparently it attracted the attention of another major label, Epic. The band signed on to a new deal and their third full-length album, Our World, got recorded. Two songs from the EP were recycled for the new LP including this single. It gained some local attention, but the tune just couldn't break through to other markets around the U.S. and the only thing the single could do was two short weeks at at the bottom of the Pop chart. Other singles failed to make the chart and that ended the band's days together.

ReduxReview:  Taylor had a terrific voice that was a bit similar to Steve Perry's. He sounded excellent on this smokey jam. The song itself it good, but it wasn't quite strong enough to be a real contender on the chart. The album is full of solid AOR rock and it really should have broke the band wider. Unfortunately, they just didn't have that one killer track that would click at pop radio.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  All but one of the songs on the album was written or co-written by the band's guitarist Rick Witkowski. Witkowski had been a member of the prog rock band Crack the Sky. Their 1975 self-titled debut album was critically well received and was even named the debut album of the year by Rolling Stone. Despite solid press, the album only managed to reach #161 on the chart. A follow-up album, Animal Notes, did slightly better (#142), but the band's non-commercial sound just wasn't translating to a wider audience. Witkowski stayed for two more studio albums before leaving the band after 1980's White Music. After the B.E. Taylor Group split up, Witkowski returned to Crack the Sky in 1988. Two of the band's albums after that reached the lower rungs of the album chart. The band has continued to record albums and tour over the years gaining a loyal following. Their 20th studio album, Living in Reverse, came out in 2018.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"I Still Want You" by The Del Fuegos

Song#:  2740
Date:  05/31/1986
Debut:  96
Peak:  87
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This four-man Boston-based band was headed up by brothers Dan and Warren Zanes. Dan initially began the band in 1980 with Tom Lloyd. Their brand of barroom rock gained enough fans in the Boston/New England area that the famous punk/garage rock label Slash came calling. The band was signed and in 1984 they released a debut album titled The Longest Day. The album was critically lauded and it even got them named the best new band of the year by Rolling Stone. Yet the good press didn't translate into sales and the album failed to chart. Undeterred, the band moved forward and recorded their second album, Boston, Mass. The album's first single, "Don't Run Wild," was able to get on the Rock chart briefly at #46. That attention helped this second single do a bit better. It got to #33 at Rock while crossing over to the Pop chart for a short month. The album charted at a minor #134, but it was an improvement over their debut. A third album, Stand Up, failed to capitalize on the momentum they had gained and when the dust settled Warren left the band and their Slash record deal ended. Dan and Tom moved ahead with two new band members and recorded the LP Smoking in the Fields for RCA, but it didn't do any better than their previous albums. The band then decided to break up and go their own ways.

ReduxReview:  This song has a feel similar to material done by another Boston outfit, the J. Geils Band. Put Peter Wolf's voice on this and it would fit right into their catalog. The Del Fuegos were a terrific band but they were also one where it was hard to capture the energy from their live shows on to an album. They needed a standout track to get over the hump, but just didn't seem to have the right one. This song was one of their more sedate, pop-oriented efforts, but it still wasn't one that was going to catch on in a major way. It just seemed they couldn't find the right way to bridge their pub/garage sound with commercial rock and it finally got the best of them.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Dan Zanes would continue to work in music and in 1995 he was able to record a solo album titled Cool Down Time. The LP came and went, but it wasn't long before Zanes would find success in a different musical genre. After a move to NYC, Zanes began taking his young daughter to local playgrounds where he met other parents who were musicians. They began to jam together and play old folk/popular songs including some that entertained the kids. Tapes of their performances circulated around and soon Zanes decided he'd record a formal album of songs for families to enjoy. He began recording tunes and along the way asked for help from some of his musician friends such as Sheryl Crow and Suzanne Vega. In 2000, he released his first children's LP titled Rocket Ship Beach. The album was credited to Dan Zanes & Friends. It became quite popular and the following year he put out a follow-up. And then another. And another. Between 2000 and 2017, Zanes pushed out fourteen children's albums. His 2003 effort, House Party, would be nominated for a Grammy for Best Musical Album for Children. Then his 2006 LP Catch That Train! would win him the Grammy. Zanes' albums have featured many "friends" along the way including Rosanne Cash, Sandra Bernhardt, Aimee Mann, Lou Reed, Dar Williams, Deborah Harry, and many other.  2) In 1985, the Miller Brewing Co. was looking for a band to be in one of their commercials for their "made the American way" campaign. The Del Fuegos fit the bill and they appeared in an ad for Miller Beer. During one part of the commercial, the band's name is flashed on the screen followed by "Boston, Mass." Because of that, the band then decided to call their second album Boston, Mass. since it seemed like a logical way to tie the album into the exposure they got from the commercial.


Monday, April 15, 2019

"Dreams" by Van Halen

Song#:  2739
Date:  05/24/1986
Debut:  55
Peak:  22
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Sammy Hagar era of Van Halen got off to a great start when the song "Why Can't This Be Love?" reached #1 Rock and #3 Pop. It was the first single from their album 5150 and it seemed that folks were on board with the band's new lead singer. Up next for release was this track that made it to #6 at Rock. The tune just missed out on the Pop Top 20, but it was still another good showing for the band.

ReduxReview:  It seems odd to say this, but I've always thought this was VH's sweetest song. I liked the sentiment of the lyrics and even the chord structures and chorus melodies leaned towards a sound that just made you feel good. I also like the dense sound of the tune fluffed out with Eddie's keyboard. Add in Hagar pushing his voice to the limits and a classic from this era of the band was born.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  When this song came out it was accompanied by a video that ended up being quite popular on MTV. The odd thing was that the band didn't appear in the video. Instead, the stars of the video were the U.S. Navy's A-4 Skyhawk jets. Footage of the famous Blue Angels team of pilots performing maneuvers and aerobatic skills was edited specifically for the song. The timing of using the Blue Angels for the video was perfect as the hit film Top Gun had just hit theaters and interest in Navy aviation programs grew significantly. The movie was about fighter pilots who attend the Navy's Topgun training school and after the film became the top grossing of the year, the U.S. Navy reported a big spike in recruitment mainly due to folks who saw the film and decided they wanted to be a pilot. Van Halen's video at the time probably helped as well.


Sunday, April 14, 2019

"Like a Rock" by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band

Song#:  2738
Date:  05/24/1986
Debut:  56
Peak:  12
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After a four-year gap, Seger returned with his thirteenth studio album Like a Rock. It's first single, "American Storm," did quite well reaching #13 Pop and #2 Rock. As a follow-up, this big ballad was selected. It would end up peaking one notch higher on each chart than "American Storm," which meant it made it to #1 at Rock. It was Seger's first track to hit that mark. The two hits helped the album get to #3 and it was quickly certified as a platinum seller - Seger's seventh in a row to do so.

ReduxReview:  This smoldering rock ballad weaved a certain spell when it came on the radio. It was one of those songs that folks would turn up and actually listen to especially on a late night summer drive with the windows down. Seger put down and emotive vocal and the band was in prime form. In an era full of synthpop tunes, this one was able to cut a swath right through them and nearly make the Pop Top 10. It was a strong entry in Seger's catalog that would become even stronger in the next decade thanks to a series of commercials (see below).

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Many people relate this song to the popular Chevy truck TV ads. Some probably think that the song was a hit because of the commercials, but in fact the song was a hit nearly five years before its first use in a Chevy ad. The song was commissioned by Chevy in 1991. They were looking for a song that would help express how strong their trucks were but do it in a more meaningful or emotional way that grabbed folk's attention. Seger and his song were the perfect fit and remarkably, Seger agreed to license out his song for the campaign. He initially balked at lending the tune out, but then being from Detroit and urged by fans to do something that recognized the auto workers of his hometown, he relented. It also didn't hurt that Seger's father worked for Ford for nineteen years while Seger himself briefly work in a GM factory. The resulting Chevy ad campaign featuring the song ended up being one of the longest running in history. The song and Chevy trucks became synonymous and ads featuring the tune would run from 1991 through to 2004.