Saturday, June 8, 2019

"Two of Hearts" by Stacey Q

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2793
Date:  07/12/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  3
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Stacey Lynn Swain pretty much had her career picked out as a little kid. She wanted to be a dancer. By the age of five she was already in ballet classes and continued to train and perform throughout her childhood, including appearances in the Disneyland park parades. After high school, Swain secured a position with the Ringling Bros. Circus as a showgirl. For her second season in the show she switched to being an elephant rider. After her stint with the circus, Swain met recording studio owner Jon St. James. They both had a fondness for electronic music and St. James enlisted the help of Swain in producing tracks for his band named Q. They were mainly an instrumental outfit, but St. James thought a track could use vocals and had Swain step in. She then became a member of Q and a self-titled EP of their work was an indie release in 1982. Encouraged by the results, the band then worked up a full album for the alt rock label Enigma. Now under the name SSQ, their debut LP, Playback, was released in 1983. The album's lead single "Synthicide" made a brief appearance on the Dance chart at #47. While the LP didn't get a lot of attention, Swain's work and her appearance in the "Synthicide" video turned a couple of heads. That along with an indie solo EP in 1985 under the name Stacey Q ( the "Q" a reference to her original band) got her signed to Atlantic Records. She brought the SSQ members along for the ride and work began on a debut solo album. This song, which originally appeared on her EP, was redone and released as a single. It took a little time for the tune to catch on, but it eventually made the Pop Top 10 while getting to #4 at Dance and #56 at R&B. Her debut album, Better Than Heaven, would follow in the fall and get to #59. Over time it would be a certified gold seller. This song would be her only Top 10. Although some folks considered her a one-hit wonder, she would get another memorable Top 40 entry and two other songs on the chart.

ReduxReview:  Stacey Q sometimes got lumped with the Madonna clones, but I don't think she necessarily sounded like Madonna. And her material was more percolating electronic synthpop than Madonna's smoother style of dance-pop. About the only thing the two had in common was that they were dancers who just happened to find themselves in the music business. I liked this jittery tune when it came out. It was bouncy fun and Stacey Q's wispy voice went well with the bubbling staccato synths. Despite it sounding so dated and very, very 80s now, the track somehow still holds up pretty well. I get a kick out of it when it comes up on a playlist.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  To help promote Stacey Q and this song, she made an appearance on the hit NBC TV show The Facts of Life. In the episode she played "Cinnamon," a singer who was trying out for a Broadway show alongside series regular character Tootie (Kim Fields). Tootie plans on auditioning with "Two of Hearts," but quickly learns that Cinnamon is too. Stacey Q performs the song on the show. Having her on gave a ratings boost to the show and so later in the season, Stacey Q returned for another appearance as Cinnamon. It's revealed in the episode that Cinnamon had won the role in the Broadway show and became a star, but pressures from that led her to dropping out of the show and visiting Tootie. The girls encourage her to return to the show, which she does. Stacey Q performed "We Connect" on the episode. She would later do a quick guest appearance as herself on a 1988 episode of Full House and play the leader of a hard rock band in a 1989 episode of Mama's Family.


Friday, June 7, 2019

"What Does It Take" by Honeymoon Suite

Song#:  2792
Date:  07/12/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  52
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This Canadian band cracked the US Pop Top 40 with "Feel It Again," the second single from their second album The Big Prize. The song was also a hit at Rock radio reaching #8. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. While it spent the same amount of time on the Pop chart (16 weeks) as "Feel It Again," it couldn't cross over the halfway mark. It also didn't do as well at Rock only reaching #38. The album would make it to #61, which was just one notch lower than the peak of their 1984 self-titled debut. The song would do better in Canada reaching #21.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure why this song didn't do better. It's a strong rock ballad with a nice chorus and solid production from Bruce Fairbairn. It seemed like the perfect follow-up to "Feel It Again" and destined to do better. Somehow, the tune either didn't catch on our couldn't breakthrough to a wider audience. It was on the chart for quite a long time so it was obviously doing well in some US markets. It's too bad it didn't catch fire more. The tune deserved a better fate.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In addition to being on The Big Prize, this song was picked up for use in the 1986 John Cusack/Demi Moore film One Crazy Summer. Written and directed by Savage Steve Holland, it was the follow-up to his 1985 cult flick Better Off Dead, which also starred Cusack. One Crazy Summer received mixed reviews and did mediocre business at the box office. In the long run, it wouldn't garner the same cult film status of Better Off Dead. Although there was plenty of music used in the film, no official soundtrack was ever released.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

"I'm Your Man" by Barry Manilow

Song#:  2791
Date:  07/12/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  86
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  After years of making hits (eleven Pop Top 10's including three #1's), Manilow took the somewhat bold step of recording an album of standards. His 1984 LP 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe did surprisingly well with both critics and fans, and it would continue his streak of platinum selling albums. It also briefly ended his tenure with Arista Records, his label home since his solo career began in 1973 (on Bell Records, which became Arista in 1974). Manilow got courted by RCA Records and he decided to jump ship for a new deal. His first effort for the label would be a modern synthpop/dance-pop effort simply titled Manilow. This first single got things kicked off. It did well in the clubs and ended up hitting #9 on the Dance chart. Elsewhere, the song just didn't catch on. It was basically a blip on the Pop chart while not even making the AC chart, which was usually his most supportive audience. Further singles tanked and with that the album stalled at #42 making it the lowest peaking studio album of his career. It was also his first album to miss the gold level sales mark. The label switch didn't work and after only one proper studio album, Manilow packed up and headed back to Arista.

ReduxReview:  Now, it had pretty much been proven that Manilow and his music wasn't going to fit in with the synthpop 80s. He tried early on, but the results were not all that great (the #26 "Some Kind of Friend"). Kids were just not going to jump on the Manilow train. I think he knew this and then did the standards album, which was successful. After that, he probably should have stuck to what he knew best and just put out entertaining albums in the AC vein. Instead, RCA pushed him back into synthpop and this was the result. Yikes. Manilow vs. freestyle was something I could have done without. The song is not all that great to begin with and Manilow's voice over the dance beats is weird and awkward. He's a man of many talents, but being a dance-pop diva is not one of them. Believe me, I'm a Fanilow and I loves me some Barry, but not this. The album is not much better but it had one significant highlight in the big ballad "He Doesn't Care (But I Do)." Oddly, it's the only original on the album he didn't co-write. The song was solid and it fit Manilow like a glove. Had he kept on with tunes like that, he might have done better. Unfortunately, this song makes me Sad-ilow.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Although Manilow would be his only studio album for RCA, he did have three other albums issued out by the label. Two were hits compilations where he rerecorded some of his vocals in Spanish and Portuguese. The other was a soundtrack album. In 1985, Manilow would write the music for and star in a film based on his 1978 #8 hit "Copacabana (At the Copa)." It would be done as a TV movie with Manilow in the lead as Tony and Annette O'Toole as Lola. It premiered on CBS in December of '85 and did quite well in the ratings. It would also win an Emmy award for Outstanding Directing in a Variety or Music Program. RCA would release a soundtrack album from the movie. It did not chart. One song from the show, "Sweet Heaven (I'm in Love Again)," would be a track on the Manilow album.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

"The Edge of Heaven" by Wham!

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2790
Date:  07/05/1986
Debut:  47
Peak:  10
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  As this duo was wrapping up their association together, they scheduled a final performance (June 28, 1986, at Wembley in London), released a final album (Music from the Edge of Heaven in North America and Japan, The Final in other territories), and issued out this one final single (or so it was in the UK). After a high debut, the song settled in and made the climb to the #10 spot making it their sixth and final Top 10 in the US. It also made it to #22 at AC. In the UK, this song would become a double a-sided single with "Where Did You're Heart Go?" and it would reach #1. For its US release, the single had a different b-side ("Blue," a live track from their China tour), which then allowed their US label to issue out "Where Did You're Heart Go?" as a separate single later in the fall.

ReduxReview:  Kind of like their previous single "I'm Your Man," this is just another exercise in Motown-ish pop. It's fine, but just forgettable. I can never remember how this song goes until I hear it. I think it made the Top 10 based on all the hype around the duo splitting and it being promoted as their last single. I find it less annoying than "I'm Your Man," but it still wouldn't rank among the duo's best songs. As a songwriter, George Michael had done better and would do far better than this.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Wham's tour of China in 1985 was documented in the film Wham! in China: Foreign Skies. The film was ready for release by the time the duo were set to perform their final concert at Wembley stadium in London. Prior to the concert, the hour-long documentary was shown to the crowd of over 70,000 people. Since this was the first public showing of the film, it was considered a world premiere and therefore set a record for the largest audience to ever have attended a film's premiere. It would later be released on home video and in the US it would sell over 50,000 copies, which was gold-level sales for a video (formats at the time were VHS, Betamax, and LaserDisc).


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

"Yankee Rose" by David Lee Roth

Song#:  2789
Date:  07/05/1986
Debut:  72
Peak:  16
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  After departing Van Halen, Roth kicked off his solo career with the EP Crazy from the Heat, which consisted of four cover tunes including the #3 hit "California Girls." With this establishing his viability as a solo artist, Roth then had to get back into the studio to record a full-length debut album. He assembled a backing band that included guitarist Steve Vai. With longtime Van Halen producer Ted Templeman, Roth came up with Eat 'Em and Smile. It was an eclectic set that included a pop standard ("That's Life"), a 60s blues cover ("Tobacco Road"), an obscure big band song from 1981 (Billy Field's "I'm Easy"), and six tunes co-written by Roth and Vai including this first single. The video for the song was in high rotation at MTV and that helped the single get to #10 at Rock and into the Pop Top 20. The hit would push the album to #4 and it would eventually become a platinum seller. While it may not have been as big of a hit as his former band's new LP (VH's 6x platinum #1 5150), it did show that Roth had the ability to survive outside on his own.

ReduxReview:  After his sleaze-lounge EP, Roth gets back to business and rocks out. Steve Vai is a welcome addition and makes a case for being Roth's guitar wizard foil in place of Eddie Van Halen. The song is loud and brash, yet has enough hooks to make it accessible to pop radio. Although it would comfortably sit next to most any VH track, it still had the feel of a Roth solo and not just a VH retread. It was a raucous good song and one that was pretty much perfect for getting Roth back into the rock game.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The timing of this song was apt and most likely not coincidental. The tune was written as a tribute to the Statue of Liberty and it happened to be released just prior to 1986's Liberty Weekend celebration (the July 4th weekend), which included a rededication ceremony for the statute headed up by then President Ronald Reagan. It was the culmination of nearly two years of restoration work on Lady Liberty. In 1982, a team of engineers surveyed the statue in anticipation of its 100th anniversary (1886-1986). They discovered that it was in desperate need of work and a plan was hatched to get it done for the anniversary. The statue was closed in 1984 and would remain closed to the public during the renovation. In order to do a lot of the work, a scaffold was built around the statue. At the time is was the world's largest free-standing scaffold ever built. Money was raised for the cost of renovation and over $350 million was secured for the effort. Everything was completed in time for its reopening during Liberty Weekend in 1986.


Monday, June 3, 2019

"Friends and Lovers" by Gloria Loring & Carl Anderson

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  2788
Date:  07/05/1986
Debut:  77
Peak:  2
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Pop

Pop Bits:  Actress/singer Gloria Loring had been a star on the daytime soap Days of Our Lives since 1980. Loring's character, Liz Chandler, was a lounge singer and that gave Loring the opportunity to sing on the show. Loring had been trying unsuccessfully to launch a singing career on her own so she thought that singing the right song on the show might entice record labels. Songwriters Jay Gruska and Paul Gordon had written a song that was already being played in the background of some scenes on the soap. Loring thought it had hit potential and wrangled for it to be woven into her storyline. She needed a duet partner and sought out Al Jarreau. After Jarreau decline due to other commitments, Loring then ask singer/actor Carl Anderson. She had seen him in a show and thought he would be perfect. The pair recorded the song and then performed it during an episode of the soap. It got a big response and was then utilized as the love theme for another couple on the show. Loring then shopped the song to labels hoping for a contract, but no one bit. Finally, the French label Carrere (which had a US division via CBS) bit and released the single. It was released in May of '86 and due to its use on the show, the single sold. Soon airplay on radio followed and the song began to climb the charts. It was a perfect fit for AC and the song easily topped the chart. Pop radio latched onto it as well and the tune topped out at #2 for a couple of weeks. It even got to #54 at R&B. Loring would then secure a recording contract with Atlantic and issued out an album titled after the song. It would reach #61. She would record one more album for Atlantic, but nothing came from it and Loring's days as a major label artist ended. Anderson would record R&B and jazz albums over the years and would place four other minor singles on the R&B chart. Yet due to this being both artists' only song to be a major hit on the Pop chart, it got them tagged as one-hit wonders (#90 on VH1's list of Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s).

ReduxReview:  I remember just loving this song when it came out. That waltzing 3/4 time, the big emphasized keyboard fills ("and I'll be your friend"....<ca-CHING>), and Carl Anderson wailing it out at the end. It was an usual ballad and Loring was right to call it out as a hit. However, the song got played so much that it started to grate on me after a while. Then as years went by I'd hear the tune and think what a sluggish, dreary, and cheezy song it was. Now I kind of think of it in a nostalgic way. I don't mind hearing the tune once in a great while and swaying back n' forth.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Quint Shot!  1) This actually wasn't Gloria Loring's first song to reach the Pop chart. In 1977, she recorded a single for the ATCO label called "Brooklyn," however it was released under a stage name of Cody Jameson. The song was able to reach #74 on the Pop chart. It also got to #35 at AC and #64 Country. Under her own name, Loring did release three albums in the late 60s/early 70s, but nothing came from them.  2) Loring is also a songwriter. She and her then-husband Alan Thicke wrote the theme songs to two hit shows - Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. Loring would sing the theme to The Facts of Life. 3) As mentioned, Loring was married to actor/TV personality Alan Thicke. They were married from 1970 to 1984. The pair had two sons, Brennan and Robin. Robin Thicke went on to have his own successful music career which included the massive 2013 worldwide #1 hit "Blurred Lines." Alan Thicke died in 2016.  4) Carl Anderson originally performed the role of Judas Iscariot in the pre-Broadway performances of Jesus Christ Superstar. When it came time for the show to move to Broadway, Anderson was replaced by Ben Vereen. Anderson would be Vereen's understudy and would perform the role on Broadway. When the film version was being cast, Anderson would secure the role. It would earn him two Golden Globe nominations for New Star of the Year and Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.  5) This was not the first official release of the song. Although Loring and Anderson were the first to record it, during the time Loring was trying to secure a deal for the single, the song was picked up by two country singers. Eddie Rabbitt and Juice Newton recorded the duet and pushed it out in June of '86. It would be a #1 Country hit. For the Rabbitt/Newton version, the titled was altered to "Both to Each Other (Friends and Lovers)."


Sunday, June 2, 2019

"Man Size Love" by Klymaxx

Song#:  2787
Date:  07/05/1986
Debut:  85
Peak:  15
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Dance-Pop, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This all-female band broke through with their fourth album Meeting in the Ladies Room. In addition to featuring two R&B Top 10's, the LP also boasted their first Pop Top 10 with the ballad "I Miss You" (#5). The hits would turn the album platinum and set them up for their next effort, which wouldn't come out until late in '86.  In the meantime, the band recorded this song for the soundtrack to the Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines comedy Running Scared. It would be the second single lifted from the soundtrack album following Michael McDonald's "Sweet Freedom" (#7 Pop/#4 AC). It would also serve as the first single from their upcoming self-titled album. The song did well getting into the Pop Top 20 while making it to #18 Dance and #43 R&B.

ReduxReview:  Although I remembered the hook of this song, the rest of it wasn't quite as strong as I thought. It seems slightly sluggish whereas I remember this being more of a Patti LaBelle "New Attitude" workout. Obviously I was wrong, but then again I hadn't heard the song since its days on the radio. It's a pretty good piece of dance-pop and its chart showing seems appropriate. I guess I'm just not as much of a fan of the song as I had thought.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although all-female bands had been around since the 1920's, it wasn't until the early 60s and the advent of rock music that more all-female bands began to develop and get attention. Several were signed to labels and released singles, but it wasn't until 1971 that an all-female band finally cracked the Pop Top 40. The rock band Fanny reached #40 with the title track to their second album "Charity Ball." They would have two more lower charting singles before putting out their best effort in 1975, the #29 "Butter Boy." As the 80s rolled around, more all-female bands emerged and had success on the charts including The Go-Go's and The Bangles. Klymaxx was considered the first all-female R&B band to break through on the charts. (Note that all-female bands differ from girl groups in that AFB's play their own instruments whereas girl groups are mainly vocal groups only.)