Saturday, December 7, 2019

"A Trick of the Night" by Bananarama

Song#:  2975
Date:  12/27/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  76
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Bananarama's third album, True Confessions, would be their best effort in the US reaching #15 and going gold thanks mainly to the #1 hit remake of "Venus." The LP's second single, "More Than Physical," did fine at Dance getting to #5, but it failed to do much at Pop (#73). Hoping to turn things around, this third single got pushed out. Unfortunately, it couldn't make any headway either and it stalled early in the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. It was far less successful at Dance as well stopping at #29. It would be the last single to be released from the album.

ReduxReview:  The trio's previous singles had been along the dance-pop line so this more mid-tempo track was a change of pace. It suited them well and I liked the darker, film noir feel of the song. It was a good track, but perhaps not the best choice for a single. I'm not sure listeners who enjoyed the trio's dance floor jams were ready for a more mature sounding Bananarama. The song is certainly better than what its peak position would lead you to think, but it just wasn't going to be Top 10 bound.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  For its release in the UK, this single got spruced up. Originally written and produced by Steve Jolley and Tony Swain, the tune got a bit of a makeover courtesy of a new trio of producers that helped Bananarama reach #1 with "Venus." The Stock Aitken Waterman team dressed the song up to make it more dance-oriented. Its release in the UK would be postponed until early '87 due to Bananarama's participation in a BBC reality show called In the Deep End. Each week on the show, one of its two hosts would be challenged to take on a particular task or job and try to complete it in a professional way, sometimes even competing with the pros. For the first show of its third season, host Paul Heiney was tasked with making a music video that was good enough to be shown on pop music shows and channels like MTV. Bananarama signed on to be the willing artist to let Heiney film them and "A Trick of the Night" in its new SAW remix was the song to be used. Heiney and the trio finished the video and it did indeed have the look and feel of a professional music video. However, it seemed that Bananarama didn't really like the end result and preferred their original official video for the song that was released earlier in the States.


Friday, December 6, 2019

"If I Say Yes" by Five Star

Song#:  2974
Date:  12/27/1986
Debut:  96
Peak:  67
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This UK sibling group's second album, Silk & Steel, would prove to be their biggest hit at home reaching #1 and going 4x platinum thanks to five Top 10 hits. It made them major stars and in 1987 they would win the Brit Award for Best British Group. Stateside, the album didn't make much of an impression. It's first single, "Can't Wait Another Minute," would go Top 10 at R&B (#7) and Dance (#5), but it just barely missed out on the Pop Top 40 (#41). This next single didn't fare as well. It got to #13 R&B and #26 Dance while stalling in the bottom half of the Pop chart. A third single, "Are You Man Enough," only made the R&B chart at #15. The singles didn't promote the album all that well and it stopped at #80 Pop and #22 R&B. This song would be the group's last to reach the US Pop chart. It was a far cry from the success they were having at home. However, their follow-up albums failed to generate any Top 10's in the UK while in the US they could only manage three R&B Top 40 singles. Their decent from stardom was nearly as quick as their assent and after a couple of label changes and other issues, the group called it a day in 1995.

ReduxReview:  This was actually the fourth single from the album in the UK. It was a follow-up to what would end up being their biggest hit at home, the #2 "Rain or Shine." It's odd that "Rain or Shine" wasn't pushed out as a single in the US. It was a charming mid-tempo track that I think might have done better than this dance-pop track. But I guess the label thought that in the age of Madonna, this one had a better chance of catching on. Like a chunk of their singles, this is a solid, yet unremarkable, tune. It's a fun listen and has a nice hook, but it just doesn't stick around your head for long. 

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Having a major hit album in the UK gave the five Pearson siblings and their manager/dad Buster access to a lot of money. Their lifestyle nearly became as famous as their music. They bought a big mansion that housed a recording studio that they had built. They had fresh looks from top clothing designers and drove around in expensive sports cars. But kind of like what would happen to MC Hammer here in the States, their excessive spending and lack of hits led to them filing for bankruptcy and moving out of their lavish mansion near the end of the decade.  2) Five Star ended up in an infamous live British TV moment. The group was being featured in a segment of the Saturday morning magazine-style show called Going Live! They were there to promote their 1989 single "With Every Heartbeat" from their Greatest Hits album. The portion of the show that they appeared was one where fans could call in and ask a question. Somehow, a kid named Eliot Fletcher was able to get through and when the host asked if he had a question, Fletcher responded by saying "I'd like to ask Five Star why are you so fucking crap?" The call was cut off and the host continued on in a calm manner saying "thanks very much Eliot" and then asking the next caller if they had "a sensible question." The group was caught off guard and it made for a very awkward live TV moment. Flash forward to 2019 when a Twitter post that included a video of the incident started making the rounds. Five Star member Doris Pearson saw it and responded by saying she wanted to meet Fletcher. Not long after, a Twitter account that supposedly belonged to Fletcher responded by saying "Hi Doris. Thank you and sorry." Doris appreciated the tweeted apology and even invited Fletcher out for a "fucking crap night out." Fletcher declined. Although the family was stunned and taken aback at the time of the incident, Doris said she now thinks it is quite funny.


Thursday, December 5, 2019

"I Wanna Go Back" by Eddie Money

Song#:  2973
Date:  12/20/1986
Debut:  73
Peak:  14
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  Nine years after his 1977 self-titled debut came out, Money finally got his first Pop Top 10 hit with "Take Me Home Tonight," the first track from his sixth album Can't Hold Back. The single would hit #4 on the Pop chart while becoming his second #1 at Rock. To follow it up, Money released this next track. The song would be a hit at Rock getting to #3. It would also do well at Pop getting to #14. It was his fourth single to reach the Top 20. The pair of hits helped the album reach platinum sales. Background vocals for the song were provided by singer Marilyn Martin of "Separate Lives" fame.

ReduxReview:  This single really should have hit the Top 10. It's a well-written pop tune with production that was perfect for radio. And the sax is pretty sweet. The goods were there on the original (see below), but it really needed the right artist and production to make it a hit. Money was the right person for the job and he ended up with another durable hit for his catalog.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a somewhat obscure Pop charting song from 1984. The band Billy Satellite originally recorded the song for their self-titled debut album. It would be the second single released from the LP and it would get to a minor #78 on the Pop chart. Yet Money wouldn't be the first artist to remake the song. Former Journey member Gregg Rolie picked up the tune and recorded it for his 1985 self-titled debut album. Rolie's version has a slower tempo and is almost like a rock ballad. Money's version is more rock oriented than the synth-heavy Billy Satellite original.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

"Girlfriend" by Bobby Brown

Song#:  2972
Date:  12/20/1986
Debut:  76
Peak:  57
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  As New Edition's star was on the rise, Bobby Brown's satisfaction with being a member of the group was on the decline. He felt they were not getting paid properly and he started to resent the amount of attention that was being pushed towards primary lead vocalist Ralph Tresvant. Brown was also not happy with the musical direction of the group. He would act out in various way including on stage, which did not sit well with folks. As 1986 rolled in, Brown found himself voted out of the group. Luckily for him, New Edition's label, MCA, saw potential in Brown and offered him a solo deal. He was eighteen years old when his debut album, King of Stage, was released. This first single got things rolling and it ended up being a big hit at R&B reaching #1. The tune crossed over to Pop, but it didn't catch on and it stalled in the bottom half of the chart. A second single, "Girl Next Door," would only get to #31 at R&B. In turn, the album would be a modest seller (#12 R&B, #88 Pop). It was a good start to Brown's solo career, but he would skyrocket to stardom two years later thanks to a change in producers and sound.

ReduxReview:  Well, I'm not sure what MCA was trying to do with Brown, but this really wasn't the way to go. It's an old-fashioned-leaning soul track that was way too mature for Brown. He was a capable vocalist, but he didn't have the chops to handle a song like this one and it showed. I mean, there was a reason his label was pushing Tresvant to the forefront - he was a much better vocalist. Yet, Brown had attitude and personality so with the right material he could do well. Unfortunately, this wasn't the right song to showcase Brown. Surprisingly, it somehow got to #1 at R&B, but does anyone remember it now? It's the sound of an artist trying to find where they belong. Luckily, his next album would capitalize on a new style of R&B that fit Brown like a glove. It was such a hit that people fortunately forgot about his messy debut.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Brown's album featured no less that six producers and twenty songwriters. It was almost like throwing stuff against a wall and seeing what sticks. The one song that did stick was this one. It was written by Larry White, Kirk Crumpler, and Lee Peters. The three composers were members of an R&B band called Collage. That band was initially signed to Dick Griffey's SOLAR Records and the recorded two albums for the label in '81 and '83. They then moved over to MCA for their third album, 1985's Shine the Light. It produce their only charting single, the #88 R&B track "Romeo Where's Juliet?" With the album not charting, the band ended up splitting. However, the relationship with MCA led to this song getting over to Bobby Brown. White would produce the track.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

"Somewhere Out There" by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2971
Date:  12/20/1986
Debut:  83
Peak:  2
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Following major successes such as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, director Steven Spielberg chose to venture into the field of animation. Working with director Don Bluth and Universal Studios, Spielberg would exec produce an animated feature about a Russian-Jewish family of mice titled An American Tail. Composer James Horner would handle the score and like a good chunk of Disney animated features, Spielberg wanted characters to sing songs in the film and songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were brought in to flesh out four tunes with Horner. This particular song was performed in the film by the lead character Fievel (voiced by Phillip Glasser) and his sister Tanya (singing voice by Betsy Cathcart). Feeling that the song had potential beyond the movie, Spielberg decided to bring in two music stars to do a pop version that would play over the end credits. Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram were tapped to do the duet with Ronstadt's long-time producer Peter Asher on board as well. It was pushed out as a single just before the film's opening in November '86 and it began to get traction at AC radio. After the movie debuted and became a hit, the song crossed over to the Pop chart and began to wind its way up to the Top 10. It would eventually peak at #2 Pop and #4 AC. It was Ronstadt's first Pop Top 10 since 1980's "Hurt So Bad" (#8). The film's soundtrack would reach #42. This song would go on to win two Grammys. One for Song of the Year and one for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television. Ronstadt and Ingram would get a nod for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group. It would also be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song.

ReduxReview:  I remember when An American Tail came out. Disney was on life support and Spielberg thought he and his company could come up and become the new kings of animation. Well, that didn't happen. The film was successful, but it wasn't the Disney-style hit of yore. I saw it and was completely underwhelmed. In fact, I didn't like it. However, I do think the competition really pushed Disney and not long after they started to get their act together. Things came to a head between Disney and Spielberg when the sequel to An American Tail, the perfectly dreadful Fievel Goes West, got released the same weekend as Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Well, we all know what happened there. But I digress. I didn't care for American Tail, but the one good thing that came from it was this song. It was a beautifully written tune that featured lovely performances by Ronstadt and Ingram. The song had a lot of crossover appeal and it did better than I expected nearly topping the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The 80s were a low time for animated features. Disney, Warner Bros., and Rankin & Bass were all trying to score with the G-rated crowd, but most films came and went to little fanfare including Bluth's own post-Disney flick 1982's The Secret of NIHM, which did modest box office. In fact, it was so bad over at Disney that their animation studio almost went out of business. Their last major hit was 1977's The Rescuers. 1981's The Fox and the Hound performed well, but it was nowhere near blockbuster status. Hoping to turn things around, Disney gambled on a darker fantasy adventure tale called The Black Cauldron. At the time, it was the most expensive animated film ever made ($44 million) and it was Disney's first effort to use some computer generated images. It was also Disney's first animated feature to get a PG rating. At initial test screenings, portions of the film proved too intense for younger viewers, some of whom apparently screamed and ran out of the room. Even after a re-edit, the movie still proved to be a bit too dark and got the PG tag. The film premiered in the summer of '85 to mixed reviews. Audiences didn't bite either with the film grossing a very underwhelming $21 million. It was a major loss for Disney studios putting them on the verge of bankruptcy. While this was going on, Spielberg and Bluth were making their attempt to outdo Disney with An American Tail. Disney, meanwhile, forged ahead with the more modestly budgeted The Great Mouse Detective, which got released four months prior to Tail. It was a success with critics and did well at the box office. Tail would then be released and while it did better at the box office, it wasn't a blockbuster and critical reaction was mixed. The Great Mouse Detective would end up being a key film in the turnaround of Disney animation. It afforded them the opportunity to move on and by 1989 they returned to being the powerhouse of animated films with The Little Mermaid.


Monday, December 2, 2019

"(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)" by Beastie Boys

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2970
Date:  12/20/1986
Debut:  86
Peak:  7
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rap-Rock

Pop Bits:  This hip-hop outfit first formed as a hardcore punk band in New York in 1981. They gained a following playing in various clubs including the famed CBGB. Their first recording was a 1982 EP titled Polly Wog Stew. Over the next couple of years, the band would evolve and eventually become a hip-hop trio make up of Mike D (Michael Diamond), MCA (Adam Yauch), and Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz). Their first hip-hop recording was the 1984 12" single "Cooky Puss." The trio then further developed their sound and for their live shows hired on a DJ by the name of Rick Rubin to help them out. Rubin worked with the Boys while developing his skills as a producer. He would soon form Def Jam Records with Russell Simmons and bring the Beasties on board. The trio would refine their sound to include rap along with elements of hard rock and metal. They also became adept and weaving samples into their songs. They began releasing singles for Def Jam beginning with 1984's "Rock Hard." Several more would follow with the bulk of them slated to be included on their debut album Licensed to Ill. The LP was released in November '86 and not long after, this track was issued out as a single (technically it was the fourth single from the album). It was intended to be a parody of party-style rock songs, but most folks ignored (or didn't get) the irony and latched on to it as a rock/rap party anthem. Thanks to a raucous MTV video that got heavily played, the track caught on and it climbed into the Pop Top 10. The album would make it to the top spot and stay there for a seven-week reign. In doing so, it became the first rap album to reach #1 on the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  You know those old videos that show a shock wave from something like an atomic bomb hitting trees and buildings and such? That was kind of the feeling I got the first time I heard this song. It really bowled me over. It wasn't the first rock/rap hybrid tune I had heard, but it was certainly the most in-your-face one. It was just a crazy-ass track. Regardless of how they meant this song to be taken, there was just no doubt people were going to make this a party anthem. It just had to be. The trick was trying to outlast the novelty of this hit and they certainly did by creating works that were steps above this. Still, it's a fun track that got them established.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This hit was both a blessing and a curse. Obviously, it made stars out of the Beastie Boys and they went on to sell millions of records and ended up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. However, the frat/party boy image from both the song and the video ended up becoming a bit detrimental. This song was meant as a parody as was their performances in the video, yet rockers and partiers took both as who the Beastie Boys were. The irony got lost. But then the Beasties themselves decided to play into the image, which just made things worse. Because of that, the trio then couldn't turn it off when they realized they had kind of become what they originally had parodied. The image they set with the song dogged them throughout their career. Yet they continued on and even though they would not have another hit of this size, their albums would be influential and highly regarded by critics.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

"True to You" by Ric Ocasek

Song#:  2969
Date:  12/20/1986
Debut:  97
Peak:  75
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Ocasek's second album, This Side of Paradise, spawned his biggest solo hit, the #15 Pop/#1 Rock/#8 AC track "Emotion in Motion." For a follow-up, this track was selected. It would do well at Rock reaching #8, but it didn't maintain the more mainstream audience from his previous single and it dropped off the Pop chart after a couple of months in the bottom quarter. The album would get to #31, but that was a far cry from the multi-platinum efforts put forth by his band The Cars. This song would be Ocasek's last solo effort to reach the Pop chart. His next album, 1991's Fireball Zone, would produce the #11 Rock track "Rockaway," but it wasn't enough to promote the album and it failed to chart. Over the years, Ocasek would release four more solo albums while heading up a Cars reunion album in 2011. In 2018, he and the rest of The Cars would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ocasek would die of natural causes in September of 2019.

ReduxReview:  Since Ocasek wrote and produced a good chunk of The Cars' material, it was probably natural for him to just stay the course with his own solo works. Because of that, tracks like this sound as if they could be by The Cars. Ocasek didn't stray from his tried and true formula and I'm not sure that served him well for his solo efforts. This track even featured synth sounds/effects found on other Cars songs. I guess that's not a bad thing, but I would think that the object of doing a solo album away from your established band would be to do something different that you couldn't do with the band. Ocasek didn't necessarily do that. He basically made a Cars album. This track in particular sounds like a Cars track that was left off of their 1984 album Heartbeat City. It's actually not a bad track and if been released in the line of singles from that album, it probably would have done better. But by this point, it sounded like a retread of a Cars tune and it didn't go over very well. It's kind of too bad as I'd consider it one of his most enjoyable solo tracks even though it doesn't break any new ground. He'd pull away into his own lane with his next solo album, but by then it was kind of too late.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to his days with The Cars and his solo career, Ocasek became a well-respected producer for other artists. He produced the second albums for pioneering bands Suicide (1980's Suicide: Alan Vega and Martin Rev) and Bad Brains (1983's Rock for Light). While the albums didn't necessarily succeed commercially, both were critically lauded. In 1994, Ocasek would help to introduce a new band to the masses. He produced the self-titled debut album for Weezer, commonly known as the Blue Album. Now considered a classic, the LP featured popular tracks like "Buddy Holly" and "Undone - The Sweater Song." It would go on to sell over three million copies. Ocasek would produce two more albums by the band. He would also produce a couple of tracks for No Doubt's 2002 double-platinum disc Rock Steady.