Saturday, August 10, 2019

"25 or 6 to 4" by Chicago

Song#:  2856
Date:  09/06/1986
Debut:  81
Peak:  48
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Following Chicago's most successful studio album, 1984's Chicago 17, co-founder and main lead singer Peter Cetera took off for a solo career. The band needed to carry on so they hired in Jason Scheff as vocalist and bassist to replace Cetera. They then went back into the studio with producer David Foster for the third time and came out with the appropriately titled Chicago 18. In an unusual move, the band decided to do an updated version of one of their old hits, "25 or 6 to 4." It was then released as the LP's first single. The more modern take on the song got some attention, but it ended up stalling short of the Pop Top 40. It failed to chart at Rock and AC. The results could have easily sunk the album, but they got a second chance for a hit with their next single.

ReduxReview:  The original version of this song is easily my favorite from Chicago. It's a driving, urgent jam with an outstanding horn arrangement, great harmonies, nice guitar solo and a solid vocal from Peter Cetera. I remember hearing this as a kid and thinking it was such a cool song. It was perfection as-is, so why on earth did the band decided to remake this tune? I've often wondered if it was some kind of "we'll show him" thing against Cetera for leaving the band (as he was the lead singer on the original) and proving they can be Chicago without him. Or maybe they just though a modern 80s take on it would be fun. Whatever the reason, it wasn't one of their best ideas. The remake featured a slower tempo, loud thumping drums (and drum machines), synths, effects, a different horn arrangement, a screamy guitar solo, and a lead vocal from Scheff that sounded like a pale imitation of Cetera. It other words, it was a bombastic mess. At the time, I kind of liked it. It sounded like Foster was going for a larger Phil Collins-style production and I thought it was interesting. However, I hear it now and think that they pretty much desecrated their own classic hit. The remake was not a good idea and it shouldn't have been a single either. A big mistake all around.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This song originally appeared on Chicago's second album, 1970's Chicago (also known as Chicago II), and it became their second Top 10 hit reaching #4. It helped drive the album to #4 and made it become their second gold album (eventually being certified platinum). In addition to being one of the band's most popular and recognizable hits, a Billboard magazine article in 2019 put this song at #1 on a list of the 50 Best Chicago Songs. It also became a popular tune at sporting events and has even been cited as the number one marching band songs of all time (I played it in marching band - it was a kick-ass tune to play). Originally written by band member Robert Lamm, the lyrics are about trying to write a song, which Lamm was doing on a sleepless night. The title refers to a point when Lamm looked at his watch and saw that it was 25 or 26 minutes to 4 o'clock in the morning.


Friday, August 9, 2019

"Emotion in Motion" by Ric Ocasek

Song#:  2855
Date:  09/06/1986
Debut:  87
Peak:  15
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave, Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the success of The Cars' Greatest Hits LP, the band took a break and that gave member Ric Ocasek a chance to record his second solo album. His first solo effort, 1982's Beatitude, was a modest charter that spawned the #5 Rock/#47 Pop single "Something to Grab For." The Cars' popularity soared to new heights following their 1984 smash album Heartbeat City and that set Ocasek up well for his next solo disc, This Side of Paradise. This first single was issued out and it reached #1 at Rock. It would be Ocasek's first and only solo effort to top that chart and he would also be the only Cars member to do so. Response was also good at AC (#8) and Pop where the song made the Top 20. The album would do about the same business as his solo debut getting to #31.

ReduxReview:  This laid-back mid-tempo track was a slight change of pace from the typical more-urgent synthpop of The Cars, yet it was still close enough that if you didn't know the artist credit, you'd most likely say this was a Cars tune. Ocasek doesn't do much to distance himself from the band and I guess that is okay. Usually solo efforts outside of an artist's band are a bit more adventurous because they want to spread their wings. Here it seems Ocasek just wanted to stick close to home and try to generate some Cars-level hits. This one did well, but it certainly didn't do much to establish him as a viable hit maker outside of the band. It was a satisfactory tune that wouldn't have been out of place on any Cars album.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1983 when Ocasek was recording his first solo album, he had an extra track titled "Steal the Night" that was used in the Martin Scorsese film The King of Comedy, which starred Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis. Scorsese got Robbie Robertson of The Band to oversee the soundtrack. Scorsese and Robertson had a history together as Scorsese directed 1978's The Last Waltz, a documentary on the last concert by The Band. It's considered one of the best concert films ever made. The King of Comedy soundtrack featured Robertson's first solo recording after leaving The Band. The song "Between Trains" was on the album, but it was never used in the film. The King of Comedy was Scorsese's follow-up to his award-winning classic Raging Bull. The film was reviewed well, but was a box office bomb. However, it has gained much favor in Scorsese's catalog and is now considered one of his finest films.


Thursday, August 8, 2019

"Wild Wild Life" by Talking Heads

Song#:  2854
Date:  09/06/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  25
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock, Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  For their seventh studio album, the Talking Heads took on material that leader David Byrne had written for True Stories, a film he co-wrote and directed.  While the Heads performed a few of the tunes for the soundtrack, others were recorded with the actors who appeared in the film. For their album True Stories, the band recorded their own versions of those songs and combined them with the tunes they recorded for the film. Since several of the tracks did not appear in the film, the LP was not considered a soundtrack, but as the Talking Heads' next release. This single was the first one lifted from the album. It did well at Rock becoming the band's second and biggest Top 10 there getting to #4. It would also prove to be their second biggest hit at Pop reaching #25. The hit helped send the album to #17 and it would eventually be a gold-seller. Unfortunately, the song would be the band's last to reach the Pop chart. Their next album, 1988's Naked, would spawn the #5 Rock track "(Nothing But) Flowers," but it would fail to reach the Pop chart. Still, the band's fans showed up and the LP got to #19 and went gold. The band would go on hiatus after the album, but in 1991 they would officially break up.

ReduxReview:  This song pretty much picks up where the band left off with their more commercial-leaning previous LP Little Creatures. It's another cool, catchy track that had a popular associated video that won two MTV Music Video Awards (Best Group Video and Best Video from a Film). Was it an art-pop, new wave classic like "Life During Wartime" or "Once in a Lifetime?" No. But it was a fun and engaging tune that made for a good single. The band would go back to being more eclectic with the world music-leaning Naked and the results weren't as good despite some positive critical notices. They never really tailored their music for the charts, but they did have a few solid commercial moments and this was one of them.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Despite having a lot of music, an official soundtrack from the film was never released at the time. Byrne did issue out an LP titled Sounds from True Stories, which mainly consisted of the incidental music he wrote for the film and a few other tunes, but it skipped over the main songs done by the Heads and the tracks featuring the film's actors. Later in 2018, a full complete soundtrack album from the film was finally issued out.  2) There was a song on the True Stories album titled "Radio Head." In the mid-80s there was a UK band that started up called On a Friday. They were finally signed to a major label, EMI, in 1991, but the label requested a name change. The band remembered the True Stories song and thus became Radiohead.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

"Eye of the Zombie" by John Fogerty

Song#:  2853
Date:  09/06/1986
Debut:  91
Peak:  81
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Fogerty's third solo LP, 1985's Centerfield, was a double-platinum #1 hit thanks in part to the #10 Pop/#1 Rock track "The Old Man Down the Road." It took ten years for Fogerty to put out a third album, but with it being a major hit, he needed to get out a fourth one as soon as possible and he accomplished that with Eye of the Zombie. Unlike Centerfield where he played all the instruments himself, Fogerty chose to work with an assembled band for Eye of the Zombie. This first title-track single got things kicked off and it did well at Rock getting to #3. However, it just didn't catch on at Pop and the song stalled near the bottom of the chart. It would end up being Fogerty's final single to reach the Pop chart. Without a significant hit to support it, the album couldn't get near the top of the chart and peaked at #26. It was able to reach gold level sales, but that was a sharp decline after the two-plus million that Centerfield sold. Critics were not kind to the LP and Fogerty apparently wasn't thrilled with it either. After his supporting tour, he didn't include any of the songs from the album in his concert set lists for over twenty years. Despite the failure of the LP, it did earn Fogerty a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. Fogerty wouldn't attempt another solo effort for over a decade. He returned in 1997 with Blue Moon Swamp. It was well-received by critics, got him another Grammy nod, reached #37, and went gold thanks in part to a couple of Rock chart entries. He has issued out several more solo albums since then.

ReduxReview:  File this album under bad ideas. Maybe it was rushed or maybe there was label pressure. Whatever it was, Fogerty expanding his sound with synths and big drums just did not work. It was so overproduced for his style of music. Even the opening track is a bizarre instrumental synth piece with an odd, screamy guitar solo. What was up with that? Plus, I don't know what was stuck in Fogerty's craw, but the album was certainly a darker affair than Centerfield. He must have been in a mood when writing the tunes. Even the album cover was a bit disturbing with Fogerty's face turned into some kind of creature. The title mentions zombies, but that was not what he looked like. This first single set the tone, and not a very good one. The "eye...eye...eye" part seems to be a rehash of the "hidey-hidey-hide" heard in "The Old Man Down the Road" and the tune strives to be something commercial. Rock took to it, but this wasn't going to fly at Pop. While the song and the album were not absolute disasters, they weren't great and the results basically told the story.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Although this song would be Fogerty's last to reach the Pop chart, the album generated two other Rock chart entries. "Headlines" would make it to #27 while "Change in the Weather" would get to #3. As mentioned above, Fogerty didn't play any of the songs from the album in concert for years. He finally revived one in 2009 when he choose to remake "Change in the Weather" for his 2009 album The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again. And yes, Rides is correct instead of the grammatically correct "ride." It was a play on words due to the title of Fogerty's debut solo album The Blue Ridge Rangers. Although the title made it appear like it was from a band, it was really a Fogerty solo effort as he played all the instruments and produced the LP. Therefore, for the 2009 sequel, Fogerty chose the word "rides" instead of "ride" because The Blue Ridge Rangers was just another name for one person - Fogerty. So in that case, "rides" would seem to apply.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

"You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2852
Date:  09/06/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  24
Genre: Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  Bon Jovi's first two albums were moderately successful when released and by the time '86 rolled around each one had been certified gold. Not a bad result, but it just wasn't what the band was looking for. They wanted to be far more successful and they knew that their third album was potentially a make-it-or-break-it moment. To help expand both their sound and commercial viability, the band hired on Bruce Fairbairn to produce and did some songwriting with Desmond Child. The results became the album Slippery When Wet and this first single kicked things off. It debuted low on the Pop chart, but thanks in part to a popular MTV video, the song began to take off. By the end of November, the song topped the chart. It also did well at Rock getting to #9. The hit would help the album reach #1 for a week in October. It would return to the top spot early in '87 for a seven week run. This was exactly the kind of results the band was looking for and soon they would reach superstar status.

ReduxReview:  This song grabbed you by the nuts right from the beginning. The opening a cappella chorus followed by the band blasting in with a great guitar lick was quite unforgettable. It was bigger and better than anything the band had done before and it came across like the opening salvo in a war to conquer the charts. They certainly came out winners and deservedly so. I think the key with both this song and the album was that the band sounded energized and fully engaged. They didn't have a good experience on their previous album, so for Slippery they were determined to make it work. They found the right people to work with and that made a big difference as well. This was a huge slice of hooky, radio-friendly hard rock and it was pretty clear that it was going to be a major hit.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Desmond Child established himself as a songwriter for other artists when his tune "I Was Made for Lovin' You" became a #11 hit in 1979 for Kiss. He supplied Kiss with more tunes and Cher also recorded a few for her 1982 album I Paralyze. Then producer Jim Steinman approached Child to write a couple songs for Bonnie Tyler's follow-up album to her platinum seller Faster Than the Speed of Night. Steinman had a small list of requirements and Child went to work. One of the songs he came up with was "If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)." It fit the bill and Tyler recorded the tune. It would be released as the second single from her LP Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire. Unfortunately, the song didn't catch on and it stalled at a low #77 in the US. It did a little better in Europe and even got to #6 in France, but it certainly wasn't a major charter. Child believed the song to be a hit and thought the record company failed to promote it properly. When Child began writing songs with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, he brought the tune along. The trio then rewrote it and then end result was "You Give Love a Bad Name." The revisions were exactly what was needed and the song turned into a major hit.


Monday, August 5, 2019

"Typical Male" by Tina Turner

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2851
Date:  08/30/1986
Debut:  49
Peak:  2
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Turner's comback album Private Dancer was a Grammy-winning, multi-platinum hit that spawned three Top 10 hits. For her follow-up, Turner decided to work with some of the same folks that helped shape Private Dancer including songwriters Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, composers of Turner's #1 hit "What's Love Got to Do with It." The pair would write five song for the new album, Break Every Rule, including this first single. The tune debuted in the top half of the Pop chart and then quickly made its way up to the #2 spot where it stayed for three weeks, blocked from the #1 spot by hits from Cyndi Lauper and Janet Jackson. The song would also be a hit at R&B getting to #3 while going to #11 at Dance and #23 AC. It would be Turner's fifth Pop Top 10 solo hit. Turner would earn a Grammy nomination for the song in the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, category.

ReduxReview:  I think Turner was looking for consistency with Break Every Rule. Kinda like - if it worked once, let's do it again! Britten and Lyle's roles as songwriters and producers expanded while others who contributed songs (either written for Turner or covers) and/or production to Private Dancer were also back onboard including Rupert Hine, Paul Brady, Mark Knopfler, and David Bowie. Even Bryan Adams joined in following a duet with Turner for his Reckless album, "It's Only Love" (#15 Pop). Despite a similar cast, Break Every Rule didn't really sound like Private Dancer, Pt. 2. There were less cover tunes and the emphasis was more on mainstream pop/rock. It also wasn't quite as good as Private Dancer. With the exception of this tune, the Britten/Lyle compositions were a bit weak and the LP could have used a little R&B injection. Still, it was a pretty good effort and this first single was a highlight. The production and arrangement worked well, the chorus is memorable, and Turner sounds on-point and energetic. It's just a bummer there wasn't anything else as catchy as this on the album (although I did really enjoy the brooding Rupert Hine closing track "I'll Be Thunder").

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The b-side to this single was a song titled "Don't Turn Around." Penned by Diane Warren and Albert Hammond, the song was recorded by Turner as a possible track for Break Every Rule. In the end, the song was not selected for the album and instead used as the b-side to "Typical Male." For the most part, non-album b-side songs tend to get heard, but then are quickly forgotten. They will sometimes be included as bonus tracks on reissued LPs or on compilations, but rarely do they have much of a life after their original b-side appearance. "Don't Turn Around" is one song that beat the odds and became a hit - twice. The UK group Aswad picked up the track in 1988 and recorded a reggae-tinged version for their album Distant Thunder. It was issued out as the LP's first single and it went to #1 in the UK and Top 10 in several other countries. It wasn't as successful in the US where it stopped at #45 on the R&B chart. Then in 1994, the Swedish band Ace of Base recorded a version for their debut album. It would be issued out in the US as their third single and it would get to #4 Pop and #7 AC. Others have recorded the song including R&B singer Luther Ingram, who took the tune to #55 R&B. Neil Diamond would cover the song in 1992 and get to #20 on the AC chart. Bonnie Tyler also recorded the song for her 1988 album Hide Your Heart. Not bad for a tune that was originally a buried b-side.


Sunday, August 4, 2019

"True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2850
Date:  08/30/1986
Debut:  63
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  You're debut album went multi-platinum. It spawned four Top 10 hits. You were nominated for six Grammys and won one for Best New Artist. What do you do for a follow-up? That was Cyndi Lauper's dilemma following the massive success of her 1983 debut album She's So Unusual. Her next move would be highly anticipated and three years later she was ready to unleash her second album, True Colors. The first single to be released from the LP was this title track ballad. Although it had a modest debut on the chart, it quickly caught fire and climbed straight to the top becoming her second #1 hit. It would also get to #5 at AC. Lauper would receive her seventh Grammy nomination for the song in the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance category. The hit helped Lauper beat the sophomore slump, but the album would prove to be less popular than her debut. It would peak at #4 and eventually go double-platinum, which was far less than the six-million mark of She's So Unusual. Still, it was a solid result for the star.

ReduxReview:  Releasing this song first from the album was quite an unusual move. More often than not, a first single is something more upbeat that will grab attention, especially when it is highly anticipated. Yet releasing this sparsely arranged ballad proved to be the perfect choice. The song was excellent to begin with but it was really the arrangement and Lauper's delivery that sold the tune. It wasn't typical pop radio fare and it stood out. It was a brilliant move by Lauper and the song remains one of her most popular catalog entries.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) For True Colors, Lauper took a bigger songwriting role and co-wrote seven of the LP's ten tracks. Two that she did not write were remakes while the last one not penned by her was this #1 song. It was written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg. The pair were becoming go-to songwriters thanks in part to their first #1 hit, Madonna's "Like a Virgin." This song would be their second chart topper and they would compose three more #1's within the decade.  2) This song would be picked up for commercial use by Kodak. Kelly and Steinberg were reluctant at first to grant the rights to use the song, but after seeing what Kodak had in mind for the ads, they got on board. Kodak's promotional campaign containing the song proved to be successful and continued to shine a light on the song for quite a while. 3) Phil Collins would do a remake of this song for his 1998 compilation ...Hits. It would be released as a single to help promote the collection. While the tune would end up missing the Pop chart (bubbling under at #112), it would be a hit at AC where it reached #2. The cast of the hit TV show Glee would also record the song and it would get to #66 on the Pop chart. But like nearly all their entries, it only lasted for a week on the chart.