Saturday, June 29, 2019

"Ruthless People" by Mick Jagger

Song#:  2814
Date:  08/02/1986
Debut:  83
Peak:  51
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Although Jagger would find his name in the Pop Top 10 as part of a couple one-off duets ("State of Shock" with the Jacksons and "Dancing in the Street" with David Bowie), as a solo artist he had yet to reach those heights completely on his own. His best effort was the #12 "Just Another Night" from his 1985 solo debut album She's the Boss. Prior to him recording his second solo album, Jagger got another shot to get into the Top 10. He was tapped to record the title track to the black comedy film Ruthless People. On board with Jagger for the song were co-writers Daryl Hall and Eurythmics' Dave Stewart. Stewart and Jagger would produce the tune. It would be the second single released from the soundtrack album following Billy Joel's "Modern Woman" (#10). The song would do fine at Rock getting to #14, but it flopped at Pop and couldn't crack the top half of the chart. The results left Jagger still seeking a solo Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  The elements were all in place for this. Jagger, Hall, Stewart, a great title and a hit movie. Yet it didn't fully gel. The chorus was good, but the verse really dragged the song down. It also tried so hard to be a groovin' R&B/blues track and it didn't quite get there. All three artists, especially Jagger, knew their way around some blues-rock, but this one felt a bit stiff and contained. It needed to be looser with a lot more grit. Even Jagger sounds held back. I'm guessing that had to do with Stewart's rigid production and perhaps expectations that these three stars were going to make a mainstream hit. It's an interesting track and not a bad listen, but ultimately one that wasn't going to succeed as a single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Also including on the Ruthless People soundtrack album was a track by Bruce Springsteen. "Stand on It" was originally recorded in 1983 during the sessions for his Born in the U.S.A. album. While the song would not end up on the mega-selling LP, it would be used as the b-side to the album's fifth single, "Glory Days" (#5). Country artist Mel McDaniel would record the tune for his 1986 album Just Can't Sit Down Music. It would be released as the LP's first single and it would reach #12 on the Country chart. McDaniel would earn nine Country Top 10's throughout the 80s including his biggest hit, 1984's #1 "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On." That song was originally pitched to Conway Twitty and then to John Anderson. Both turned it down and that ended up being fortunate for McDaniel who then scored his first and only Country #1 with the tune.  2) This song was redone in a parody version titled "Toothless People" by Weird Al Yankovic for his 1986 album Polka Party!. When selecting which songs to parody for the LP, Yankovic had heard Jagger's tune and expectations were that it would be a hit. So he sought permission to do a parody and Jagger agreed. Unfortunately, Jagger's single failed and that left Yankovic in a quandary. Usually Yankovic will parody a big hit song because then people can relate the original and the parody. It makes sense. But with far, far fewer people knowing "Ruthless People," would Yankovic's fans even realize that "Toothless People" was a parody? Yankovic thought about not recording the parody, but since superstar Jagger had actually given him permission to do it, he decided to go ahead as planned.


Friday, June 28, 2019

"So Far, So Good" by Sheena Easton

Song#:  2813
Date:  08/02/1986
Debut:  84
Peak:  43
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Easton's 1985 album Do You would be a gold seller despite the lack of a major hit. It's first single, the #29 "Do It for Love," was the LP's only Top 40 entry, so the gold-level sales certainly reflected Easton's popularity at the time. As she was prepping her next album, Easton was called upon to contribute a song to the soundtrack of the Rob Lowe/Demi Moore rom-com About Last Night... She recorded this tune, written by Cynthia Weil and Tom Snow, with producer Narada Michael Walden. It would then be issued out as the second single from the soundtrack following John Waite's "If Anybody Had a Heart" (#76). While it would perform better that Waite's effort, it was still shut out of the Top 40. It would do slightly better at Dance (#32) and AC (#35).

ReduxReview:  This catchy, dance-pop tune was a little different from the more urban-flavored hits Easton had been pushing out. It sounded like it could have been a track written for Whitney Houston. It had that "How Will I Know"/"I Wanna Dance with Somebody" feel (both of those written by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam). Yet this song was not quite as good as those hits and Easton, while wonderful, was not Houston. Therefore, it couldn't cut a path of its own and stalled early.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Along with this one, Easton contributed one other song to the film soundtrack. It was another Weil/Snow composition titled "Natural Love." The album also featured tracks by Bob Seger, Jermaine Jackson, Paul Davis, and J.D. Souther. Also included was a track by the New York City rock 'n' roll band The Del-Lords. Led by Scott Kempner, the band became known for their raucous combination of garage rock, country, blues, and folk; a style that would later be described as roots rock. They were signed to EMI America and issued out a 1984 debut album title Frontier Days. Their second LP, Johnny Comes Marching Home, was produced by Pat Benatar's husband/co-writer/producer Neil Geraldo. It featured the track "True Love," which was picked up for use on the About Last Night... soundtrack. Their third album, Based on a True Story, would their most critically successful LP, but it didn't result in any significant sales and after one more LP, the band would split. The band got their name from film director Del Lord. Lord was best known for directing short films featuring the Three Stooges. From 1935 to 1948, Lord worked with the Stooges on over 30 short films.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

"Ain't Nothin' Goin' on But the Rent" by Gwen Guthrie

Song#:  2812
Date:  08/02/1986
Debut:  91
Peak:  42
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  Guthrie began learning music and singing at an early age and by the 70s she was performing with several vocal groups. Guthrie then got into jingle singing and also began writing songs with her boyfriend Haras Frye. One of their tunes, "Supernatural Thing," was picked up by singer Ben E. King. After not having a major hit for nearly fifteen years, King's recording of the song made it to #1 at R&B and #5 Pop in 1975. Other artists would pick up their tunes and it wasn't long before Guthrie was branching out on her own as a solo artist. She signed with Island Records in 1982 and issued out a self-titled debut album. It sold some copies as did her next two LPs for the label. Some of her singles made the R&B and Dance charts, but she still hadn't been able to score an across-the-board hit. That changed when she moved over to Polydor Records and recorded this song for her album Good to Go Lover. The song was a smash at R&B and Dance getting to #1 on both charts. It crossed over to Pop and nearly broke into the Top 40. It would end up being her biggest single and her best-selling album (#20 R&B/#89 Pop). Unfortunately, she couldn't capitalize on the momentum of the hit and further singles were minor entries at R&B. After two more albums that failed to produce hits, her major label recording days came to an end. Sadly, Guthrie would pass away in 1999 from uterine cancer.

ReduxReview:  Guthrie wrote this sassy groove and it easily became an oft-referenced R&B/Dance classic of the decade. Guthrie had worked with the Jamaican team of Sly & Robbie for a couple of albums and many of her tracks had more of a dance-R&B-dub feel to them. She took over as producer on her third album and started to shift towards a modern R&B sound. It paid off when she also produced Good to Go Lover and came up with this hit. It topped the R&B and Dance charts (rightfully so), but it should have been a much bigger hit at Pop, especially with artists like Janet Jackson breaking through to Pop and MTV at the time. The song was slightly controversial when it came out as it seemed the person in the song would only go out with rich men - aka a gold digger. I'm not sure if that was Guthrie's intent was with the lyrics, but I always saw it as about a woman who is trying to protect herself and not get involved with a slacker that won't contribute anything to the relationship. It's kind of like a predecessor to TLC's 1999 hit "No Scrubs." The scrubs were out there and I don't blame Guthrie for wanting to avoid them.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Guthrie's first real major break came in 1974 when she got a call to sing backup vocals on an Aretha Franklin track. Franklin was recording the song "I'm in Love" for her album Let Me in Your Life. Apparently, a scheduled backup singer got sick and they needed a replacement quickly and Guthrie got the call. She sang backup on the track alongside Cissy Houston. The song would be the second single released from Franklin's album and it would reach #1 at R&B and #19 Pop. The tune was written by Bobby Womack and was originally recorded by Wilson Pickett in 1967. Pickett's version got to #4 R&B and #45 Pop. Guthrie would sing backup vocals for other artists including for Madonna on her 1983 debut album.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

"Spirit in the Sky" by Doctor and the Medics

Song#:  2811
Date:  08/02/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  69
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  UK-born Clive Jackson was not a singer and didn't know how to play any instruments. However, that didn't stop him from getting into music and he began by spinning records as a DJ. He began going by the name the Doctor and started to wear kabuki-inspired makeup. As 1981 rolled in, he had formed a band called Doctor and the Medics. They began playing clubs doing covers of 60s psychedelic rock tunes along with some offbeat originals. Their first single was the indie released "The Druids Are Here." The band gained a following thanks to their retro-rock sound, their glam look, and their performances which included two (originally three) female dancers that went by the odd name of The Anadin Brothers (they would eventually sing backup as well). The band would get signed to IRS Records in 1985 and then release two EPs including one produced by XTC's Andy Partridge. The EPs sold pretty well and that led to them recording their full-length debut album Laughing at the Pieces. This first single was issued out and it ended up going Top 10 in many European countries and #1 in several including the UK. The song made it across the pond, but the reception was not all that good. The track was able to reach #27 at Dance while staying in the bottom third of the Pop chart. A follow-up single, "Burn," couldn't do much of anything (#29 UK). Same with a failed attempt to cover ABBA's "Waterloo," which got to #45 in the UK. A second album disappeared quickly and the original band fell apart. The Doctor would still keep a version of the band going over the years. They would recording a couple of albums and continue to tour.

ReduxReview:  Except for having a more modern production, there's not much difference between this track and the original (see below). I would guess if you were a fan of the original, this one is not gonna do much for you. I find it to be a rather bland cover and it seems US listeners thought so too since they did not push it into the Top 10 like Europe did. I think the nostalgia factor kicked in over there and made the song a hit along with the glam look of the band. Had to have been. Otherwise, there is no reason this tepid cover should have been a hit.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally written and performed by Norman Greenbaum. His 1969 version would become a psych-rock classic that got to #3 in 1970 and went gold. Although he would have two low charting follow-ups, Greenbaum became known as a one-hit wonder. Greenbaum was an original member of the jug band Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band. They had a minor single with the Greenbaum-written tune "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago," which got to #52 in 1966. Many artists have covered "Spirit in the Sky" over the years, but besides Greenbaum and Doctor and the Medics, the only other artist to have a version reach the Pop chart was R&B/gospel singer Dorothy Morrison. Morrison joined the Edwin Hawkins Singers in the late 60s and she was the lead singer on their Grammy-winning #4 gold record "Oh Happy Day" (1969). She left for a solo deal and "Spirit in the Sky" was the second single from her debut album Brand New Day. Her version of the tune barely scrapped the Pop chart at #99.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"Love Zone" by Billy Ocean

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2810
Date:  07/26/1986
Debut:  65
Peak:  10
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B, Quiet Storm

Pop Bits:  Ocean's sixth album, Love Zone, had already spawned two hits; the #2 Pop/#6 R&B "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" and the #1 Pop/#1 R&B ballad "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)." His previous album, Suddenly, featured three Top 10 hits, so Ocean hoped that the same thing would happen for his new album. Indeed this title track third single did well enough to just scrape the Pop Top 10. It did even better at R&B where it became his third chart topper. The trio of hits would help make the album a double-platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  I admit that I kind of dismissed this track when it first came out. For some reason I just couldn't get into it and I thought the title was silly. Years later I recognized that it's a pretty slick jam that sets a sensual quiet storm mood. Ocean sells the song well and it's hard to not sit back and sway along with the rolling groove of the tune.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Ocean is not the only major recording star to have been born in Trinidad. Rap sensation Nicki Minaj was born in Trinidad in 1982 - just two years before Ocean's breakthrough #1 hit "Caribbean Queen." Her mom moved to the States and established a home before bringing the rest of the family over. Minaj arrived in Queens, New York, when she was five-years-old. She would later graduate from LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. She originally wanted to act, but ended up in a rap group. That led to her releasing her own mixtapes in 2007 and by 2010 she had released her multi-platinum debut album Pink Friday.


Monday, June 24, 2019

"Velcro Fly" by ZZ Top

Song#:  2809
Date:  07/26/1986
Debut:  72
Peak:  35
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Blues-Rock

Pop Bits:  After releasing an uncharacteristic ballad, "Rough Boy," as the third single from their multi-platinum album Afterburner, ZZ Top got back into their 80's-enhanced blues rock with this follow-up. Although it didn't hit the Top 10 at Rock like the album's previous singles, it still did well reaching #15. At Pop it got to #35. It would be the first and last time ZZ Top would get four singles from one album into the Top 40. This song would also be the band's last to reach the Pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  I thought the band jumped the shark with this track from the album. It was just a little too cutesy wink-wink naughty with a velcro fly offering easier access than a zipper. It even featured a real velco rip as a sound effect. Their shtick was wearing thin and I wasn't buying it. However, in later years I can recognize that it's one of the better tracks on the album. It's hooky, well-produced, and kinda fun. The problem is that it just doesn't offer anything different from their previous hits. It was business as usual.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was mentioned in the Stephen King novel The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands. In the book, a group known as the ka-tet have found their way to the decaying city of Lud. On occasion, what are called "god-drums" are blasted across the city. This entices fighting in the city. One of the members of the ka-tet later recognizes that the "god-drums" sound is the drum track from this song.  2)  Like several of their previous videos, this one featured women dancing. It was choreographed by soon-to-be pop star Paula Abdul. Even the gents from ZZ Top get in on a little of the dance as well. Besides some visual references, the video doesn't continue the story of the Eliminator car from their previous videos.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

"Walk This Way" by Run-D.M.C.

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2808
Date:  07/26/1986
Debut:  73
Peak:  4
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rap, Rap-Rock

Pop Bits:  This Hollis, Queens, New York, trio consisted of rappers Joseph Simmons (Run) and Darryl McDaniels (D.M.C.), and DJ Jason Mizell (Jam Master Jay). Managed and promoted by Simmons' brother Russell, the trio got signed to Profile Records in 1983 and issued out the single "It's Like That." It was not like other rap tracks of the day. It had a harder edge with a minimal arrangement that featured forceful vocals where Run and D.M.C. would switch off lines and also rap together. It wasn't like the (now called) old school rap of the day and it became a surprise hit at R&B reaching #15 on the chart. A second single, "Hard Times," nearly cracked the R&B Top 10 at #11. The results got Profile to spring for a full album and a self-titled debut album appeared in 1984. It would be the first hip-hop album to receive a gold certification. Their next LP, King of Rock, would raise their popularity further. It contained three R&B Top 20's and that would help make it the first hip-hop album to go platinum. The trio were redefining the genre and the hip-hop culture. For their next album, Raising Hell, the group collaborated with newbie producer Ruck Rubin. The LP was nearly done, but Rubin thought they should experiment with a rap-rock hybrid tune that might bring rock music listeners on board. Rubin suggested a cover of Aerosmith's 1975 hit "Walk This Way." At first, the group thought they would just rap over a sample of the song, but Rubin wanted them to do an actual cover. In addition, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry would be brought in to do vocals and guitar. The guys were reluctant at first, but finally agreed to the collaboration. After the track was done, the group weren't even sure it would get on the album. Not only did it make the final track listing, but it was selected to be the LP's second single. It was a hit at R&B becoming their second Top 10 on that chart reaching #8. As Rubin predicted, the Aerosmith angle helped to take the single into the mainstream and it cracked the Pop Top 10 while getting to #6 at Dance. It was boosted by a popular video that featured Tyler and Perry. It broke ground by being the first rap video to be played on MTV. The hit would send the album to #1 R&B and #3 Pop. Eventually, it would become the first multi-platinum selling hip-hop album. It also got them a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  It's kind of hard to describe what it was like back in the day to first hear this. The melding of rap with rock on a classic rock tune that featured two of the song's original performers was kind of mind blowing. The guys couldn't have picked a better song for a collaboration. The guitar riff was sample-worthy to begin with and Steven Tyler's original vocals were nearly done in a rap style. The song was influential in so many ways. It broke barriers and took rap to the mainstream. Run-D.M.C. had already taken rap to a new level and this track pushed the envelope even further. Not only that, it was just a fun listen and it ignited a fire under Aerosmith's ass to get going again.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a cover of a song originally recorded by Aerosmith in 1975. It was first issued out as the second single from their album Toys in the Attic after their #36 entry "Sweet Emotion." It initially did not chart. After their next album Rocks became a hit, this song was reissued as a single. On its second run, the song made it to #10 becoming the band's second Top 10 hit. Apparently, Jam Master Jay was playing around with the song's opening lick for potential use but didn't know who it was by as the disc he was using had no label. Rick Rubin heard Jay playing the disc and knowing exactly what it was introduced the guys to the full song and Aerosmith. From there, this cover was born. The song was the beginning of Aerosmith's revival. Their career had been floundering for years and addictions were also taking a toll. Around the time of this single, the band was cleaning up and this song along with the MTV exposure helped to make their next album Permanent Vacation a major hit.   2) The first single from the Raising Hell album was "My Adidas." It became their first R&B Top 10 getting to #5. At the time, Adidas shoes were not all that popular, yet the group became known for wearing them (without laces because they weren't allowed in jails). The song highlighted the brand and it wasn't long before the company knocked on Run-D.M.C.'s door with a lucrative endorsement deal. The brand then became synonymous with the trio and with hip-hop culture.