Saturday, June 1, 2019

"That Was Then, This Is Now" by The Monkees

Song#:  2786
Date:  07/05/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  20
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The last time The Monkees were on the Pop chart was back in 1970 with "Oh My My" (#98), a track from Changes, the last album officially put out under the group's name. By that point, The Monkees consisted of just Mikey Dolenz and Davy Jones. Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork had already departed. The album was basically one to satisfy a contractual obligation. Although they amassed six Top 10 hits included three #1's and their sales and popularity rivaled The Beatles, they were often looked down upon due to the assembled nature of the band and their offbeat TV show that lasted two seasons. Yet over the years their songs held up and critics were beginning to view them in a different light. Then along came MTV and when they were looking for something interesting to add to their schedule, The Monkees TV show seemed like a good fit. Not only did it have a nostalgia factor, but it was goofy fun and each show featured songs that were basically done in the style of music videos. In February of '86, the channel dedicated a whole day to airing reruns of the old show. It also just happened to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the band. The exposure renewed interest in The Monkees and their back catalog began selling. The kids channel Nickelodeon then started running the TV show daily. The resurgence prompted the band to get back together (minus Mike Nesmith who had other obligations) for an anniversary tour. In addition, a new compilation CD of their hits would be assembled titled Then & Now...The Best of the Monkees. For the disc, the group would record three new songs including this first single. It would end up being a surprise hit making the Pop Top 20 while getting to #24 at AC. The album would get to #21 and would go platinum. It was quite the comeback for the band.

ReduxReview:  This was a good song choice for a Monkees return. It was a straight-ahead pop tune with some 60's flare to it, yet updated for the 80s. Was it as good or as memorable as their classic hits? Nope. But it was solid enough to ride the momentum of all the attention they got from the revival of their TV show on MTV. I remember when MTV brought the shows back. It ended up being a big deal - probably more than what the channel or The Monkees even thought. A new generation really latched on to them and the band became popular all over again. They were everywhere. It was a well deserved return. I've always been a big fan. I have all their albums and all the extras (bonus discs, box sets, etc.).

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although The Monkees were pared down to Dolenz, Tork, and Jones at this time, only Dolenz and Tork participated in making the new singles for the compilation. Davy Jones had a couple of issues with the new songs and chose not to participate. First, it seems that the tracks were going to be performed by studio musicians and then the vocals would be done by The Monkees - much like in the old days of the band. Jones didn't like that they were only on vocals and had little control over the rest of the track. Second, back in the day Jones had signed a deal with Bell Records for his 1971 self-titled solo album. Apparently, Jones did not have a good experience with the label and he was very soured by it all. Bell then turned into Arista Records headed up by Clive Davis. The new Monkees compilation was to be issued on Arista, which didn't set well with Jones. While he didn't work on the new recordings, Jones did perform on the anniversary tour. However, when it came time to do the new tunes in the show, he simply stepped off stage.  2) This song was originally written by Vance Brescia and recorded by his band The Mosquitos. It appeared on their 1985 indie EP of the same name. It seems that The Mosquitos were shopping around their EP to labels and Arista's Clive Davis happened to hear this song. He thought it was a perfect tune for The Monkees and sought to secure the song for them. It turned into at hit, but alas nothing much happened for Brescia and The Mosquitos afterward.


Friday, May 31, 2019

"No Promises" by Icehouse

Song#:  2785
Date:  07/05/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  79
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This Australian band first got on the US Pop chart back in 1981 with "We Can Get Together," a track from the US version of their self-titled debut album. It seemed to be a good start for them, but their next two albums failed to get any singles on the Pop chart. They had better luck back home scoring two further Top 10 hits and that allowed them to record their fourth studio LP Measure for Measure. This first single got things kicked off and it would do well on the US Rock and Dance charts getting to #7 and #9, respectively. It would cross over to the Pop chart for a couple of months, but couldn't manage to get out of the basement. It wasn't a major hit, but it did help the album get to #55, which was their best showing on the US chart to this point. Another track from the album, "Cross the Border," would be a minor entry on the Rock chart reaching #19.

ReduxReview:  The groove of this song along with its arrangement is strongly reminiscent of the David Bowie/Pat Metheny track "This Is Not America." It also doesn't help that band leader Iva Davies' vocals are akin to Bowie's. Even his inflections are quite similar. It's not close enough to be called a rip off, but the band had to have been influenced by the Bowie track (with shades of a-ha too). It's actually a quality, atmospheric track that nicely rolls along. The only thing that it's missing is a more memorable hook, which may be what held it back at Pop. The band would unleash more commercial friendly songs on their next LP, but at least this one got them re-noticed in the US.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In 1985, the band's lead singer/songwriter Iva Davies was commissioned to write a score for choreographer Graeme Murphy's ballet Boxes. Davies did the work along with his bandmate and songwriting partner Bob Kretschmer. It was created for the Sydney Dance Company. A soundtrack of the work was recorded and released in Australia as by Icehouse. In other territories like the US, it was credited to the Sydney Dance Company. The song "No Promises" was part of the music for the ballet. The tune was edited for the band's Measure for Measure album and released as its first single. One other song from the ballet, "Regular Boys," was also used on the new album.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

"Before I Go" by Starship

Song#:  2784
Date:  07/05/1986
Debut:  96
Peak:  68
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Starship's album Knee Deep in the Hoopla was a big success for the band going platinum on the strength of two #1 hits and another Top 30 entry. They tried to keep the ball rolling with this fourth single from the album, but it sputtered out early in the bottom half of the chart. Although this would wrap up the singles for this album, they would return the following year with another major chart topper.

ReduxReview:  This song was a bit underrated. The repeating keyboard lick heard at the top of the song was quite memorable and the tune had a thoughtful, soft rock feel with a lovely chorus. I'm surprised AC stations didn't pick up on the track as it seemed like it might have done well there. Yeah, it's not the strongest single candidate, but it deserved to at least hit the Top 40.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by David Roberts. Born in Boston but raised in Toronto, the singer/songwriter worked as a session musician before getting signed to the Canadian branch of Warner Bros. near the beginning of the decade. He recorded a debut album for them titled All Dressed Up in 1982. It featured the soft rock single "Boys of Autumn," which made it to #30 on the Canadian chart. Although the album didn't do all that well, Roberts did get a Juno nomination for Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year. Another track from the album, "Anywhere You Run To," would get picked up and recorded by Diana Ross for her 1982 album Silk Electric. Starship would record another one of Roberts' songs, "Say When," for their next album No Protection.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"Point of No Return" by Nu Shooz

Song#:  2783
Date:  07/05/1986
Debut:  97
Peak:  28
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This Portland, Oregon, group caught a break with "I Can't Wait," the first single from their third album Poolside. The quirky tune would reach #1 at Dance, #2 at R&B, and #3 Pop. The song did well enough to earn a gold certification. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. It would be another major hit at Dance reaching #1. Elsewhere, it didn't do as well as their previous single and stopped inside the Pop Top 30 while getting to #36 at R&B. The tune stayed on the Pop chart for quite a long time (most #1's last about 18 weeks on the chart), which showed that it was highly successful in some markets while in others it just couldn't catch on.

ReduxReview:  I think this was a solid follow up to the groovy "I Can't Wait." The stop-action video with all the shoes was fun as well. I wasn't sure if it would make the Top 10, but I did think it would do better than a paltry #28. While perhaps not as quirky or fun as "I Can't Wait," it was just as hooky and had terrific 80s synthpop production. For me it is memorable for the way singer Valerie Day sings the song title a second time and she goes "I'm at the point of no retur-ur-HERN!" Always makes me chuckle a little.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The leaders of Nu Shooz, Valerie Day and John Smith, revisited their big hit "I Can't Wait" for its 20-year anniversary. They recorded a new version in a chamber pop/jazz style. It led them to doing a whole album of pop/jazz originals that included a couple of pop standards. Among the songs they recorded was also a new version of "Point of No Return" titled "(The Return Of) The Point of No Return." The album would be given the title Pandora's Box and would be credited to the Nu Shooz Orchestra. It was released in 2010.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Do You Remember Me?" by Jermaine Jackson

Song#:  2782
Date:  07/05/1986
Debut:  98
Peak:  71
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Jackson's album Precious Moments started off on a fairly good note with its first single, "I Think It's Love," getting to #16 at Pop, #14 R&B, and #5 AC. For a follow-up, this album-opening track was selected for release. It didn't get the same attention as the previous single and it ended up stalling early at both R&B (#40) and Pop (#71). It also made a brief appearance on the Dance chart at #43. Without and additional hit, the album couldn't find an audience and it fell short of expectations topping out at #46 Pop and #25 R&B. It was a disappointment coming on the heels of his previous gold-selling self-titled album that got to #1 at R&B and #19 Pop.

ReduxReview:  While this a good album opener, it wasn't that great as a single. It's hooks weren't strong enough to cover for the weak verse. The production kind of overruns the tune as well. In the end, it just wasn't memorable enough to keep it going on the charts. Besides "I Think It's Love," there wasn't much on the album that stood out. His previous self-titled album was full of solid, interesting tracks and it did well because of that. Precious Moments had the one excellent single and that was about it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Included on the Precious Moments album was the closing track "Words Into Action." That song would also appear on the soundtrack to the Rob Lowe/Demi Moore rom-com About Last Night... It would be issued out as a single, but the best it could do was a #90 showing on the R&B chart. It was written by the team of Mike (aka Mick) Leeson and Peter Vale. They would write songs for many artists over the years but their two biggest charting hits would be Sheena Easton's #4 James Bond theme "For Your Eyes Only" and Eddie Money's #4 hit "Take Me Home Tonight. They would contribute one other song to Jackson's album, "I Hear Heartbeat." It would not be released as a single.


Monday, May 27, 2019

"Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2781
Date:  06/28/1986
Debut:  42
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Newly minted superstar Madonna already had to her credit two big selling albums along with eight Top 10 hits including three #1's. She seemed to reinvent herself along the way and when it came time for her third LP, True Blue, people wondered if she could keep transforming. The LP's first single, the #1 ballad "Live to Tell," certainly made a statement that she was evolving as an artist. Next up was this album opening track that showed further signs of maturity. The string arrangement with its classical styling seemed like an attempt at attracting a wider age range of listeners while the controversial lyrics about teen pregnancy was not something common in pop music. The song nearly debuted in the Top 40 and two months later it was sitting atop the chart becoming Madonna's fourth #1. It was also her fourth gold record. The video for the song would earn her an MTV Video Award for Best Female Video.

ReduxReview:  With new producer on board, Patrick Leonard, Madonna's sound on songs like this and "Live to Tell" were more adventurous and dense. This certainly wasn't the same thin, early 80s dance-pop sound of her debut LP. Madonna was developing as an artist and it certainly showed with the first two singles from True Blue. She also had a more glamorous look with this album including the gorgeous Herb Ritts cover shot. Ever smart and savvy, Madonna knew early on that she had to stay ahead of the curve whether it be with her music or her persona/look/attitude. She would do that and more sometimes even getting way ahead of the curve. Madonna stepped up her game with True Blue and it cemented her status as the leading female artist of the decade.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was written by Brian Elliot. The inspiration for the tune came from a conversation he overheard when some teen girls from the local high school were hanging out in front of his studio. Apparently, he intended the track to be used by an unknown artist named Christina Dent, but Warner Bros. exec Mo Ostin heard the song and wanted it for Madonna. She was presented the song and accepted it. However, she altered some of the lyrics to be more in-tune with what she wanted and that gave her a songwriting credit along with Elliot. As for Christina Dent, it seems she did some vocal work for other artists, but never got a solo career off the ground.  2) The video for this song featured actor Danny Aiello playing Madonna's father. Aiello had been in several films by this point in his career and even won a Daytime Emmy in 1981 for his role in an ABC Afterschool Special, but he wasn't necessarily a well-known actor to the public. He would become more recognizable after co-starring roles in 1987's Moonstruck (playing opposite Cher) and 1989's Do the Right Thing, for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His appearance in the Madonna video raised his recognizably factor as well since it was heavily played on MTV. Following the success of the song, Aiello recorded an indie answer song titled "Papa Wants the Best for You." The tune was written by Artie Schroeck, a successful arranger and jingle writer. There was a video made for the song, but it went nowhere. It's an obscure relic from the time period.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

"Rumbleseat" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Song#:  2780
Date:  06/28/1986
Debut:  78
Peak:  28
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Mellencamp's Scarecrow album already generated four hits. Three of them were Top 10's while his last one, "Rain on the Scarecrow," just missed the Top 20 reaching #21. With interest in Mellencamp and the album still going, the label decided to push out a fifth single. This next track was selected to be released. It would do well at Rock getting to #4, but it was a bit sluggish at Pop and could only step inside the Top 30. It would be the last single released from the album which would go on to sell over five million copies.

ReduxReview:  There were two good candidates for a fifth single from the LP. This one and "Minutes to Memories." I think "Minutes to Memories" is the stronger song, but it had already been a hit at Rock radio earlier in February of '86. It was also a darker tune, which probably wasn't what was wanted after the dramatic "Rain on the Scarecrow." "Rumbleseat" by comparison was a short burst of rock with a good groove and a more upbeat tone. It was probably the better one at the time for a single, but either way I think the results would have been about the same. The album's initial life cycle was wearing down, so any single was going to have a difficult scaling the chart. It's still a great song though.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In addition to the five singles that reached the Pop chart, there were two other tracks on the album that got enough airplay to reach the Rock chart. "Minutes to Memories" would get to #14 while "Justice and Independence '85" would make a minor impression at #28. In addition to these seven songs, one other Mellencamp tune made the Rock chart during this time period. In the sessions for the Scarecrow album, he recorded a version of the classic hit "Under the Boardwalk." The track would end up on the b-side to "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." Rock radio picked it up for airplay and the cover tune made it to #19 on the chart. "Under the Boardwalk" was originally a #4 hit in 1964 for The Drifters. Many artists have covered the song over the years including Bette Midler who performed recorded it for the soundtrack to her 1988 movie Beaches. It was actually issued out as the first single from the soundtrack to promote the movie, but it didn't chart. (Obviously, the soundtrack later became famous for Midler's #1 hit "Wind Beneath My Wings.") Over the years, only two other artists have been able to reach the Pop chart with a cover of "Under the Boardwalk." Billy Joe Royal made it to #82 in 1978 and Bruce Willis got to #59 in 1987.