Saturday, June 22, 2019

"Missionary Man" by Eurythmics

Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2807
Date:  07/26/1986
Debut:  81
Peak:  14
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Eurythmics' fourth album, 1985's Be Yourself Tonight, would be their second one to reach platinum sales in the US. It featured four charting singles including the #5 hit "Would I Lie to You?" That album moved the duo away from synthpop into a more rock/R&B band-based style. They kept moving down that path for their next effort, Revenge. This bluesy first single was issued out and it was a hit at Rock radio getting to #1 - their first and only song to reach the top of that chart. It also got to #6 at Dance. The tune's success at Pop was slightly more limited with it peaking in the Top 20. While the result was good, it didn't match up with the first singles from their previous three albums all of which reached the Top 10. It may have signaled a slight dip in their popularity, but Grammy folks certainly took notice and handed the duo the award for Best Rock Performance, Duo or Group. It was their first and only Grammy win.

ReduxReview:  I was (and still am) a mega Eurythmics fan and so I couldn't wait for Revenge to hit the streets. Before that, this song came out and on first listen I didn't know what to make of it. While it had elements of Eurythmics present, especially in the near-monotone verse/chorus, I wasn't sure I liked the edgier rock 'n' soul with its harmonica solo and gospel-ish background. Yet the more I heard it, the more I liked it. I wasn't confident that the song would do well on the chart, but it exceeded my expectations, thanks in part to the popular stop-motion associated video (which got four MTV Music Video Award nominations). It was a forceful first single and one that I still enjoy quite a bit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Two other musicians have standout parts in this song. Jimmy "Z" Zavala performed the harmonica part and Joniece Jamison provided background vocals. Zavala was mainly a studio musician who played harmonica and sax. It was during sessions for Tom Petty's Southern Accents album that Zavala met Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, who was co-writing and producing three tracks for Petty. As Eurythmics were recording Revenge, Zavala got a call from Stewart who wanted him to fly to Paris to do a harmonica part. Zavala flew over, basically stepped off the plane into the studio, and did the part in one take. American singer Joniece Jamison made a move to France in the early 80s and worked with several artists. She was a go-to session vocalist and was brought in to the Revenge sessions based on a recommendation. She provided background vocals on a few tracks including "Missionary Man." She would later record duets with French star Fran├žois Feldman. Two songs that they recorded would be Top 10 hits in France 1989 and 1991. Both Zavala and Jamison would be hired on as part of the Revenge touring band.


Friday, June 21, 2019

"All Cried Out" by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2806
Date:  07/26/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  8
Weeks:  26
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This outfit earned a gold record with their debut single "I Wonder If I Take You Home." The track would reach #1 at Dance and #8 at R&B. Although it would only get to #34 at Pop, it was a slow burner that lasted on the chart for a lengthy 21 weeks. A follow-up single didn't do as well, but this third single would once again get them a gold record. The ballad would be a significant hit at R&B getting to #3. Like "I Wonder," the track was another slow burner at Pop that took a while to gain an audience. This time around the results were even better and it became the group's first Top 10 hit. It would help drive sales of the album, which would eventually reach platinum status.

ReduxReview:  This weepy track was just so damn good. From the melancholy piano arpeggio opening to the emotive vocals from Lisa Lisa, Paul Anthony, and Bow-Legged Lou, it was nearly a masterpiece of 80s R&B/soul balladry. The songwriting and arrangement were top notch and a bit unexpected from a group known for their beats. It was incredibly memorable and the best part was when the guy sings "I'm so sorry" and Lisa Lisa retorts "apology not accepted, add me to the broken hearts you collected!" I loved this tune from first listen and I still love it. Although the group would have bigger hits to come, this really was their best moment.


Trivia:  This song was later covered by the R&B female vocal quartet Allure. They recorded the tune for their 1997 self-titled debut album. It was the third single released from the album and it would end up being their biggest hit reaching #4 at Pop and #9 R&B. They were assisted on this track by the all-male vocal group 112. That quartet was having success with their 1996 self-titled debut album that featured two R&B Top 10s along with their guest appearance on Puff Daddy's big #1 Pop/#1 R&B hit "I'll Be Missing You" (with Faith Evans). 112 would go on to score six more R&B Top 10's with two of those reaching the Pop Top 10. Unfortunately, Allure was not so lucky. Their second album could only manage a very minor charting song at R&B and that ended their days on the charts. However, they would continue to record and perform over the years.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

"Every Little Kiss" by Bruce Hornsby & the Range

Song#:  2805
Date:  07/26/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  72
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Virginia-born Hornsby wore many hats as a musician in his early career. He played in various bands, was a staff songwriter for 20th Century Fox, was an L.A. session musician, and toured with a few established artists. All that experience led to him forming his band the Range in 1984. A year later they were signed to RCA Records and prepping their debut album The Way It Is. This first single was issued out and Rock radio responded well by taking the track to #18. The easy-going tune also gained a few fans at AC where it reached #37. Pop wasn't as receptive and the song stalled near the bottom quarter of the chart. It wasn't a fantastic result, but it worked well enough to get Hornsby's name out there and his next single would send his career into high gear.

ReduxReview:  This Americana/heartland-ish track was a good one to introduce the band. The style is fine. It wasn't out of line with singles by Springsteen, Seger, Mellencamp, or even John Cafferty. So I'm not sure why it didn't do better when initially release (see below). It was a catchy track performed well by the band and it featured a nice vocal from Hornsby. All the elements were in place yet for some reason it just didn't catch on.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) If you are thinking that this single did better than a paltry #72, you are right. After Hornsby's next two singles hit the Pop Top 10, this song was remixed and pushed out again as a follow-up. It did much better on its second outing getting to #14 Pop/#3 AC.  2) In his years as a session/touring musician, Hornsby worked with several artists including Sheena Easton. Hornsby was hired to be in Easton's band for the tour supporting her 1984 A Private Heaven. In addition to going on tour, Hornsby also appeared as a musician in two of her videos for the album. He can be seen as the keyboard player in both "Strut" (#7) and "Sugar Walls" (#9).


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

"Nothing in Common" by Thompson Twins

Song#:  2804
Date:  07/26/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  54
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, the UK trio known as the Thompson Twins had scored three Top 10's in the US from two hit albums including 1985's gold seller Here's to Future Days. However, the rigors of touring along with all the issues that arise from success started to take a toll on one of the band's members. Percussionist/backing vocalist Joe Leeway hit a breaking point and decided it was time for him to move on. His leaving then made the Twins an actual duo with leader Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie soldiering forward. For their first effort as a duo, Bailey and Currie co-wrote this song specifically for the Tom Hanks dramady Nothing in Common. It was issued as the first single from the soundtrack album a couple weeks prior to the film's debut. The tune didn't catch on all that well and it fumbled before it could get into the top half of the Pop chart. It did slightly better at Dance getting to #38.

ReduxReview:  Although the film had dramatic elements, it leaned toward being more of a comedy and this song seemed a bit too serious for the flick. While the lyrics did reflect the movie's theme, they focused more on the dark, dramatic side of things without any type of resultion. Usually movie themes are upbeat and fun or on the romantic side and while it was refreshing that this one bucked the trend, I found it somewhat dour and slightly depressing. That's not something you really want when trying to promote a film. On it's own, it's a good tune and would be a fine addition to a Twins album. As a single tied with a movie, it didn't hit the mark.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After a few leading roles in comedies like 1984's Splash, Hanks expanded a bit into dramatic territory with Nothing in Common. He co-starred in the film with entertainment legend Jackie Gleason. The film received mixed reviews and did mediocre business at the box office. It would end up being Gleason's final film performance. It was during production of the movie that Gleason discovered he had terminal colon cancer. That along with other health issues such as diabetes finally took a toll and Gleason passed away in June of '87. Hanks would go on to be a major movie star and win back-to-back Oscars for Best Actor in 1993 (Philadelphia) and 1994 (Forrest Gump). Nothing in Common would later be turned into a TV sitcom. It was developed for CBS and premiered in 1987 as the show that followed the hit series Cheers. The show starred Todd Waring and Bill Macy. Unfortunately, it couldn't keep the Cheers audience and after seven episodes it was cancelled.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

"Hot Water" by Level 42

Song#:  2803
Date:  07/26/1986
Debut:  96
Peak:  87
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Synthpop, Sophisti-Pop, Electro-Funk

Pop Bits:  This successful UK band finally made some headway in the US with their sixth album World Machine. It featured their first and only Top 10 hit with the #7 "Something About You." The song helped propel their album to #18. For a follow-up single, this next track was selected for release. The tune couldn't come close to replicating the success of their previous single and it fell off the chart after a short month.

ReduxReview:  Level 42 is mainly know for the expert musicians in the band. They were actually more of a jazz-funk jam band that started to incorporate pop elements in their music. They hit the mark with "Something About You," but the balance of their material just wasn't as mainstream. This track is certainly a fun jam, but it's not a great single. It's missing a chorus with a hook strong enough to lure in US pop listeners. It's a solid album track though and their musicianship shines through.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  While the band had achieved success in their UK homeland with four Top 20 albums, they were relatively unknown in the US. When it came time for their World Machine album to be issued in the States, its track listing was altered from the original European version. Two tracks from the original version were replaced with two tracks from their previous album True Colours. The single versions of "Hot Water" and "The Chant Has Begun" were placed on the US version. Both songs were previously singles in the UK reaching #18 and #41, respectively. It wasn't that unusual for track alterations to happen for albums being released in different territories. Labels usually assessed albums and would change things if they thought it might make the album more popular or relatable in a certain territory such as the US market. Chances are since Level 42 had yet to have a charting song in the US prior to "Something About You," they thought bringing two songs that already charted in the UK to the World Machine album might help its commercial viability. Basically, they didn't hear another song that might be a hit in the US and wanted to pad the disc with better candidates. "Hot Water" was one of them, but even though it was a Top 20 entry in the UK, it didn't get anywhere in the US. The follow-up to "Something" in the UK was the track "Leaving Me Now," which made it to #15.


Monday, June 17, 2019

"Dancing on the Ceiling" by Lionel Richie

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2802
Date:  07/19/1986
Debut:  40
Peak:  2
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Richie's second solo album, Can't Slow Down, was a massive success spawning five Top 10 hits and selling over ten million copies. It also snagged the Grammy for Album of the Year. Richie then had the daunting task of following up that mega hit. It took him nearly a year and a half to write and record his third album, Dancing on the Ceiling. As he was prepping the LP, he grabbed his fifth #1 single with the Oscar-winning White Nights soundtrack song "Say You, Say Me." While that tune would end up as a track on the new album, it wasn't considered the LP's first official single. This title track was promoted as such and upon release it made a splash debuting on the Pop chart in the Top 40. It easily sailed up the chart and seemed to be headed for #1, but a couple of other songs ended up blocking the top spot and Richie had to settle for a #2 hit (#3 AC/#6 R&B). The album, of course, would be immediately successful and it quickly reached #1. While it wouldn't be as popular as Can't Slow Down, it was still a big hit selling over four million copies - the same amount as his 1982 debut solo album.

ReduxReview:  Richie started to lose me a bit with "Say You, Say Me." I just didn't care for the tune and I was hoping this track would renew my interest in his music. Alas, this song didn't do it. In fact, it further distanced me from Richie. I thought it was a weak, forced attempt to recreate the magic of "All Night Long (All Night)." That song sounded free and easy, but this one seemed so stiff and staged. From Richie's weird opening "whoo!" to the near robotic crowd noises, the track felt a bit cool and calculated. I just couldn't get into it. I still can't. He certainly had a big job to try and follow up Can't Slow Down and in general he did fine as the LP was a hit. However, the weaker material never fully caught my ear. I didn't pay much attention to Richie after this.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  In 1951, Stanley Donen directed the MGM musical comedy film Royal Wedding, which starred Fred Astaire and Jane Powell. With songs by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner, the film was a box office hit in MGM's long line of successful musicals. The film is perhaps best known for one of Fred Astaire's solo dance numbers. As he performs the tune "You're All the World to Me," he begins to dance up the walls and on the ceiling of a room he was in. Apparently, Astaire had been thinking of the wall/ceiling dance concept for years and was finally able to develop it for this film. A custom set was built where the room could rotate. A camera was attached to the room to provide the steady shot. As the room turned, the walls then became the floor. Same for the ceiling. Astaire could navigate his dance to the new "floor" as the room turned. The camera stayed with the room as it circled. When footage is viewed, it appeared like the room didn't move yet Astaire defy gravity and could dance up the walls and on the ceiling. It was quite the effect. For the video to "Dancing on the Ceiling," Richie hired Donen to direct and together they recreated the effect. However, this time around it wasn't a solo piece and the cast of the video had to navigate the turning room as well. It made for a fun and memorable video that went right along with the lyrics.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

"If Looks Could Kill" by Heart

Song#:  2801
Date:  07/19/1986
Debut:  81
Peak:  54
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Heart's 1985 self-titled comeback album would be their biggest selling studio effort with sales of over five million in the US alone. By this point in time, the LP had generated four consecutive Top 10 hits including the #1 "These Dreams." Thinking that there might still be a little gas left in the tank, the band's record company decided to release this fifth single from the LP. It wasn't the smartest move as the single couldn't crack the top half of the Pop chart. It even missed the Rock chart completely. Still, the four Top 10's were impressive and their multi-platinum hot streak would continue with their next two albums.

ReduxReview:  This was a big, bold album opener for Heart that combined their harder edged rock with an updated 80s production. It was a terrific tune and I was always surprised that rock radio didn't jump on this track from the start. I think it may have been a bit too gritty for pop who had gotten used to their more mainstream sound via the previous hits. It made for a killer album track, but it really wasn't a great single. What is most interesting is the song's transformation from a dance floor stomper to a hard rock track (see below). The dance version is pretty good, but it ended up being a better rock tune. It just goes to show you that a good song can work well in various genres.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by singer Pamela Stanley. Her Hi-NRG dance version got to #23 on the Dance chart in 1985. The Philly-born singer got signed to a German label in 1979 and her debut LP, This Is Hot, gained enough attention to get it picked up for release by EMI America in the States. The title track would get to #16 on the US Dance chart in 1979. Yet it seems that wasn't good enough for the label and Stanley was dropped. She returned in 1983 with the indie release "I Don't Want to Talk About It," which got to #13 at Dance. "Coming Out of Hiding" would follow in 1984 and it would become her biggest hit reaching #4 at Dance. The hit got her signed to Mirage Records and her first effort for them was "If Looks Could Kill." The tune would get to #23 on the Dance chart while also appearing in the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Raw Deal. That dance track was picked up by Heart and given a heavy rock treatment for their self-titled album. Stanley would have one more single reach the Dance chart in 1986. She would later leave dance music behind and continue to perform and record various styles of music including jazz, country, and adult contemporary.