Saturday, December 14, 2019

"Shelter" by Lone Justice

Song#:  2981
Date:  01/10/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  47
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

**Welcome to 1987! 1986 started with the abysmal "Superbowl Shuffle." Luckily, '87 gets started with a terrific song. Let's get going!**

Pop Bits:  This band headed up by Maria McKee was touted as being the next big thing prior to their 1985 self-titled debut album. Unfortunately, their introduction proved to be underwhelming with the album stopping #56 and the single "Ways To Be Wicked" sputtering at #29 Rock and #71 Pop. In the aftermath, two of the four members took off leaving McKee and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock to soldier on. They padded the band with three new members and set off with producers Steve Van Zandt and Jimmy Iovine to record a second album. It would be called Shelter and this title track would be its first single. It would get to #26 at Rock while cracking the Pop Top 50. A second single, "I Found Love," would fail to chart at either Rock or Pop. With nothing much to promote it, the album stopped at #65. The band that was once a hot commodity had turned cold and not long after Shelter failed to boost their career, the band split up.

ReduxReview:  This slick, radio-ready song is quite a distance away from the band's cowpunk origins. Their debut album was kind of a tamped down version of their country/blues/rock sound while Shelter was a more commercial-leaning rock album. Frankly, I love all iterations of the band and I really dug the Shelter album when it came out. Especially this sweeping single and its ghostly opening. I think Iovine, Van Zandt, and the band's label, Geffen, really wanted to make rock stars out of the band, but it just wasn't meant to be. Early fans of the band didn't like the sleek Shelter with its synths and non-countrified tunes, but I thought it was great. Especially the devastating "Wheels," which I've sung and cried to in my car countless times. As much as I liked Lone Justice, the main attraction for me was Maria McKee's voice and songs. Her self-titled debut solo album is one of my all-time faves and each album after was varied in sound and textures (in a good way). She is just brilliant. While this song may not reflect the sound of Lone Justice from the early 80s, it was still a solid tune that should have at least made the Top 20. Ages ago a friend of mine sang in a bar band and my group of friends would go see them and drink n' dance. She knew I loved this song and for a while after it came out, she always made sure to play it sometime during the night. I always appreciated that.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Maria McKee would embark on a solo career following the breakup of Lone Justice. Her self-titled debut arrived in 1989. One song from the LP, "I Forgotten What It Was in You (That Put the Need in Me)" got to #29 on the Rock chart. The album would peak at #120. McKee would end up having two major hits. Her first one was as a songwriter. She penned the song "A Good Heart" that was recorded by Feargal Sharkey. It was a hit in the UK (#1) and in other countries, but it was virtually ignored in the US (#74). Her second hit was one she co-wrote and performed. She contributed the song "Show Me Heaven" to the soundtrack of the 1990 Tom Cruise film Days of Thunder. It would be released as a single around Europe and it would hit #1 in several countries including the UK. It was never officially released as a single in the US, but airplay on AC radio helped the song get to #28 on that chart. McKee would go on to release several albums including the highly acclaimed Bowie-esque Life Is Sweet in 1996.


Friday, December 13, 2019

Milestone! The Year in Review: 1986

Wow. It is hard to believe that I've been at this for a little over seven years now. Things have changed since I first started in September of 2012. There is more info available on artists from the decade and the availability of tunes on streaming services has significantly increased. Years ago when I first started the blog, there were times I had to purchase a vinyl copy of a 45 or album in order to hear the song. I haven't had to do that in a long while as most significant artists are all on Spotify. There were major artists who were resistant to streaming for years (Prince, Bob Seger), but they are all on services now. There are still a few obscure tunes not available there, but thus far I've been able to find them on YouTube. I'm sure in another seven years things will have changed again.

As for 1986, it was a good transition year. Run-D.M.C. and Beastie Boys raised the rap game while the Stock Aitken Waterman production team developed their dance-pop formula via Bananarama and were on their way to Rickrolling us in '87. Janet Jackson came into her own as her producers/co-writers Jam & Lewis started their string of hits for Jackson and other artists like the Human League. Madonna matured a bit yet still courted controversy via "Papa Don't Preach." Hard rock and hair metal kept edging its way up the chart. Peter Gabriel and his former band Genesis went head-to-head and both came out with #1 songs. MTV was still going strong as music videos were becoming more elaborate (Gabriel's award-winning "Sledgehammer") and essential.

For me, '86 was pretty much on par with '85. There were definitely a lot of quality songs that made the year enjoyable. However, I didn't own as much Top 10's as I had in previous years. I believe at one point I only owned five songs in the Top 10 for a few weeks, which was low. I rated eight songs at a ten, which was the same as '85, but I'd have to say that even though the tunes deserved the rating, I'm not sure if any of them will make my Top 20 list for the decade. I have a suspicion that '87 will prove to be slightly better as classics from U2, Michael Jackson, and George Michael will shake things up.

I'm still enjoying this project and I hope anyone who encounters the blog will have fun as well. Keep reading, pass it along to friends, feel free to send comments, and don't forget to "Rate It!" at the bottom of each post. Here is a recap of 1986:

Number of charted songs in 1986:  401  (405 in 1985)
Time it took listen/post all songs:  1 year, 36 days  (1 year, 39 days for 1985)
Number of songs that debuted in 1986 to hit #1:  30  (28 in 1985)
Number of songs that debuted in 1986 to reach the Top 10 (excluding #1's):  81  (74 in 1985)
Number of gold singles:  17  (17 in 1985)
Number of platinum singles: 1  (2 in 1985)
Number of songs that won a Grammy:  6  (8 in 1985)
Number of One-Hit Wonders:  6  (5 in 1985)
Number of Rated 10 songs:  8  (8 for 1985)
Number of Rated 1 songs:  0  (1 for 1985)

Top 5 favorite chart songs of the year:
  1. "Human" by The Human League
  2. "Like Flames" by Berlin
  3. "On My Own" by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald
  4. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" by Janet Jackson
  5. "Live to Tell" by Madonna
Worst song of the year:  "Lead a Double Life" by Loverboy
Best song I didn't know existed:  "Stay True" by Sly Fox
Favorite discovery:  Wax

A few other fun stats:

Highest debut:  #40 - "Dancing on the Ceiling" by Lionel Richie (peaked at #2) and
                                  "True Blue" by Madonna (peaked at #3)
Lowest debut:  #99 - "In Between Days (Without You)" by The Cure (peaked at #99)

Longest climb to peak position:  Both "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin and "At This Moment" by Billy Vera & the Beaters climbed 95 positions from #96 to #1

Longest trip to #1 for a song debuting in 1986:  "Holding Back the Years" by Simply Red took 15 weeks to reach #1
Quickest trip to #1 for a song debuting in 1986:  "Amanda" by Boston took 7 weeks to reach #1.
Most weeks at #1 for a song debuting in 1986:  4 - for two songs, "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles and "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi

Most weeks on the chart for a song debuting in 1986:  27 - "Something About You" by Level 42 (it peaked at #7).

Average number of weeks a song spent on the chart:  13
Position on chart where the most songs debuted:  #88, #94, #95 - 23 songs debuted at those spots (11 hit Top 10, 3 made it to #1)
Longest song title:  "One Sunny Day/Duelling Bikes from Quicksilver " by Ray Parker, Jr. and Helen Terry
Shortest song title:  "Bop" by Dan Seals and "War" by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

A few artists who got their first chart single in 1986:  Falco, The Cure, Pet Shop Boys, Fine Young Cannibals, The Jets, George Michael (solo), Belinda Carlisle (solo), Bruce Hornsby & the Range, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam (with Full Force), Run-D.M.C., The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Cinderella, Anita Baker, The Art of Noise.

Runners-Up:  13 songs peaked at #2, 1 songs peaked at #11, and 5 songs peaked at #41

Some interesting things learned (click links for more details in previous posts):
  • The story of Peter Frampton's lost guitar is pretty amazing.
  •  John Cougar Mellencamp's "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." mentions a musician whose death is clouded in mystery.
  • Partridge Family member Danny Bonaduce sort of recorded a solo album during the show's run.
  • Solo hit maker and Wax band member Andrew Gold's mother was a singer who made significant contributions to a few classic films.
  • Writers of the Whitney Houston's hit "Greatest Love of All" were nearly sued for plagiarism by another famous artist.
  • A member of the Aussie band the Models won a bunch of money on a game show.
  • A now-famous Oscar-nominated director got his start making 80s music videos including one for Jermaine Stewart
  • Kenny Loggins was the fifth artist asked to record the Top Gun soundtrack hit "Danger Zone."
  • Also not the first choice - Berlin on "Take My Breath Away."
  • Actor Danny Aiello, who appeared in Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" video, recorded an answer song to the hit.
  • Before becoming a charting artist himself, Bruce Hornsby was a member of Sheena Easton's backing band an appeared in a couple of her videos.
  • Heart's rockin' track "If Looks Could Kill" was original a charting dance tune.
  • Steve Perry's parents owned a radio station.
  • Don Johnson's hit "Heartbeat" was originally recorded by a hit making 70s AC artist.
  • A Bonnie Tyler track was repurposed for Bon Jovi's breakthrough hit "You Give Love a Bad Name."
  • The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde wrote "Don't Get Me Wrong" for a tennis pro with a bad boy image.
  • Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" was originally demoed as a mid-tempo ballad.
  • Elton John wrote a song with Cher...well, sort of.
  • A hit for The Jets was written by an artist who had a couple of Top 10s at the turn of the 80s.
  • Debbie Harry's "French Kissin'" was written by a now-famous TV writer/producer.
According to the year-end chart for 1986, these were the year's Top 10 singles:
  1. "That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne & Friends
  2. "Say You, Say Me" by Lionel Richie
  3. "I Miss You" by Klymaxx
  4. "On My Own" by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald
  5. "Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister
  6. "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston
  7. "Party All the Time" by Eddie Murphy
  8. "Burning Heart" by Survivor
  9. "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister
  10. "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer

So long '86! I'm pretty sure you will be eclipsed by '87, but I ain't mad atcha!


Thursday, December 12, 2019

"Without Your Love" by Toto

Song#:  2980
Date:  12/27/1986
Debut:  77
Peak:  38
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Toto's 1984 album Isolation was a disappointment following the massive success of their 1982 Grammy-winning Toto IV. It peaked at #42 and struggled to go gold. Their next LP, Fahrenheit, would do about the same business getting to #40 and going gold, but it boasted one thing that Isolation didn't have - a hit. The LP's first single "I'll Be Over You" would reach #11 at Pop and #1 AC. For a follow-up, the band kept with the soft rock sound of their previous single and released this track. It would do well at AC getting to #7, but it didn't click as well at Pop and the tune stalled just inside the Top 40.

ReduxReview:  The band continued to keep the yacht rock waves ebbing and flowing with this lilting tune. It is pure So.Cal soft rock and like their previous hit it sounded pretty good. It was a slightly darker tune and floated just a bit closer to smooth jazz, so I'm not surprised it didn't catch on as well at Pop. Much like in the way Chicago realized their 80s bread n' butter was big ballads, Toto seemed to accept that listeners wanted to hear their brand of soft rock and it paid off for them with these two singles.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by band member David Paich. He also wrote or co-wrote the band's three biggest hits, "Hold the Line" (#5), "Rosanna" (#2) and "Africa" (#1). In addition to being a six-time Grammy winner, Paich is also an Emmy winner. A few years prior to Paich being a co-founding member of Toto, he was working with his father, jazz pianist/composer/arranger Marty Paich. Marty Paich would go on to become a Grammy nominated arranger and work with a myriad of artists including Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Neil Diamond, and Linda Ronstadt. Back in the 60s, Marty began to work as an arranger and orchestra leader for TV shows like The Smothers Brothers and Sonny & Cher. He also began composing music for TV shows and as his son David developed his musical inclinations, Marty began mentoring and working with him on projects. A composition the pair wrote for a 1974 episode of the TV drama Ironside would go on to win an Emmy for Best Song or Theme.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"Candy" by Cameo

.Song#:  2979
Date:  12/27/1986
Debut:  80
Peak:  21
Weeks:  17
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  It took twelve albums and nearly ten years for Cameo to finally land a Top 10 hit on the Pop chart. "Word Up," the first single from their album of the same name, made it to #6 at Pop while reaching #1 at both R&B and Dance. The hit also helped the album become their first platinum seller (#8 Pop/#1 R&B). Hoping for another crossover hit, the band released this follow-up single. Although it would become their third chart topper at R&B, it couldn't do as well as "Word Up" on the Pop chart and stalled just shy of the Top 20. Still, the back-to-back hits raised the band's profile and put them at a whole new level.

ReduxReview:  While not as massively hooky as "Word Up," this was an interesting follow-up. There was something alluring and mesmerizing about the song that kept your attention. From Larry Blackmon's strangely accented voice to the waves of synths to the sax breaks, the tune was a bit odd. It wasn't a track that I would say was a hit, yet there was something about it that made you want to hear it again. Blackmon's production certainly set the song apart and it sounded great when cranked. It was an unusual single that actually worked.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The sax on this song was performed by jazz musician Michael Brecker. In addition to playing on a multitude of tracks by big stars like Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Dire Straits, and Steely Dan, Brecker would be nominated for 28 Grammy awards for performance and composition. He would win 15. Brecker would die in 2007 due to complications from leukemia.  2) Feel like you have heard parts of this song before? You most likely have. It has been sample many times over the years by artists like 2Pac, Will Smith, The Black Eyed Peas, and Beyoncé. Perhaps its most heard use was when it was sampled on Mariah Carey's 2001 hit "Loverboy." That song, recorded for the soundtrack to her film Glitter, became a #2 hit. However, "Candy" was not the first sample choice for Carey's record. She initially wanted to use a sample of "Firecracker," a 1978 track by the Yellow Magic Orchestra. Around this time, Carey had left Colombia Records for Virgin and had divorced her husband Tommy Mottola, who was working for Sony. He started working with Jennifer Lopez and when he got wind of Carey using "Firecracker," he sought permission to use it for a Lopez song. Indeed they did and samples of the song were used on Lopez's 2001 #1 hit "I'm Real." It ended up getting released prior to Carey's original "Loverboy," so she scrapped that version and started over again with the sample from "Candy." Regardless of the shenanigans, both artists ended up with significant hits.


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

"Don't Leave Me This Way" by The Communards

Song#:  2978
Date:  12/27/1986
Debut:  87
Peak:  40
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Dance, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  In 1984, the UK synthpop trio Bronski Beat hit the big time with their debut album The Age of Consent. It would reach #4 in the UK thanks to two Top 10 hits there including the #3 "Smalltown Boy," which crossed over to the US Pop chart and got to #48. It seemed the band was on their way to bigger things, but then lead singer Jimmy Somerville suddenly decided to leave and form a duo with a musician who played on the album, Richard Coles. They called themselves The Communards and began work on a debut LP. The self-titled effort would be released in the summer of '86 in the UK and it would be a #7 hit thanks in part to this single which topped the UK chart for four weeks and became the best selling single of 1986. The song would be a hit all over Europe before finally coming ashore here in the States late in the year. It would replicate its UK success on the US Dance chart by reaching #1. It crossed over the Pop chart, but it didn't catch on in a more mainstream way and just barely nicked the Top 40. The album would be a low charter at #90. Another track from the album, "So Cold the Night," would get to #25 at Dance (#8 UK).

ReduxReview:  Somerville always sings in a falsetto so for some folks that can be an acquired taste. I like it, but sometimes a full album can be a bit too much so I tend to listen to selected tracks like this one. It's also odd that Somerville's voice is higher than the actual female voice on this (see below), but they do compliment each other. I prefer Houston's classic disco version better (again, see below), but this 80s dance floor workout take is pretty fun. For the US, this track was a bit too club-oriented for pop radio so a Top 40 showing wasn't a bad result. Dance clubs ate it up though and it was an easy #1 on that chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) The duo's name was taken from French history. The Paris Commune was the name of a radical socialist group and government that for a minor few months in 1871 ruled Paris in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War. They were ultimately quashed by the French army during a long struggle for control that became known as "bloody week." The members of the Commune along with its supporters were known as Communards.  2) This is a remake of a song originally recorded in 1975 by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass handling lead vocals. The song was a track for their album Wake Up Everybody and was not initially released as a single. The tune then found its way over to Motown and was slated to be recorded by Diana Ross. Instead, it got assigned to label mate Thelma Houston. Houston had been associated with Motown since 1971, but she had little luck breaking through. Her disco take on the song became a smash hit in 1977 reaching #1 at Pop, R&B, and Dance. It would end up being a classic of the genre. With the success of Houston's version, Harold Melvin's original got issued out as a single the same year. It didn't make an impression in the US, but it was a hit in the UK reaching #5 (Houston's version got to #13 in the UK). Houston would go on to win the Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for the song.  3) The female vocal on the track was courtesy of Sarah Jane Morris. She had been the lead vocalist in two well-regarded UK bands, the political-leaning The Republic and the 21-piece brass band The Happy End. Although not considered a formal member of the Communards, Morris would lend her vocals to several of their tracks. She would later launch a solo career in 1989. She is cousin to famed Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin.


Monday, December 9, 2019

"Someone" by El DeBarge

Song#:  2977
Date:  12/27/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  70
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  DeBarge's second solo single, "Love Always," did well at R&B (#7) and AC (#8), but it stopped short of the Pop Top 40 at #43. Hoping to rekindle interest on Pop radio, this third single from his self-titled debut album was pushed out. It did best at AC getting to #20, but it halted at #32 at R&B while riding the bottom of the Pop chart for a couple of months. It didn't do much to help promote the album, which had already been certified gold in September '86. It would end up being DeBarge's last solo single to reach the Pop chart. Over the years he would have several more singles get on the R&B chart with 1989's "Real Love" doing the best at #8. He would record three albums before pausing his solo career in 1995. He would return in 2010 with Second Chance, an album that would garner him two Grammy nominations.

ReduxReview:  While this Stevie Wonder-ish song is mildly better than "Love Always," it still wasn't a tune that was going to be a hit. It made for a nice album track, but there was no way it was going to return DeBarge to the Top 10 on any chart. The tune just wasn't strong enough. It boasted excellent songwriters (Jay Graydon, Mark Mueller, and Robbie Nevil), but like other tracks on the album that featured solid composers, it sounded like their b-level material. I'm not sure what DeBarge and his label were thinking, but molding him into an AC crooner wasn't the brightest idea.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia: While DeBarge would be absent from the Pop chart as a solo artist, two singles on which he would be a featured artist would make the chart. In 1990, a track from Quincy Jones' Grammy-winning LP Back on the Block, "Secret Garden," would reach #31 on the Pop chart. It would go to #1 at R&B and #26 AC. DeBarge would share lead vocal duties on the tune along with Barry White, Al B. Sure!, and James Ingram. He would also be a featured vocalist on the 1991 single "All Through the Night" by rapper Tone Lōc. It would get to #80 at Pop and #16 R&B. DeBarge's last solo song to hit the AC chart came in 1987. He sang the title song to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Starlight Express for a 1987 concept-style album titled Music and Songs from Starlight Express. The show originally opened in London's West End in 1984 and finally crossed over over to Broadway in 1987. An original London cast album of the show had already been available, so to help promote the Broadway run, the concept album was developed and DeBarge was tapped for the project. His version of "Starlight Express" was issued out as a single and it got to #30 at AC.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

"(I Know) I'm Losing You" by Uptown

Song#:  2976
Date:  12/27/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  80
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  Not a lot is known about this Dallas, Texas, group. It seems that they were originally a female vocal trio who recorded this song in 1983 with producers Scott Yahney and Jack Malken. The track was originally released on the NYC-based Silver Screen Records. The record might have floated off into obscurity if it wasn't for a popular Dallas nightclub DJ by the name of Rick Squillante. He started to spin the track and it quickly became a club favorite. As its popularity grew to other US clubs, the record got picked up by the Dallas indie label Oak Lawn. They reissued the 12" single along with an edited 45 version and it caught on well enough to make the Pop chart. The tune stayed on the chart for nearly three months, but it couldn't get any higher than 80, which wasn't a bad result for a new indie label that probably didn't have a lot of money for promotion. A follow-up single titled "I'm Gonna Love You," written and produced by Yahney, was released and credited to the duo Uptown Girls featuring Jan & Michelle. A third single, a remake of Fontella Bass' 1965 hit "Rescue Me" (#1 R&B/#4 Pop) was issued in 1988. Neither follow-up proved as popular as "I'm Losing You" and it seems the folks involved in the records went on to other things.

ReduxReview:  There is so little info on Uptown. My Billboard book says they were a female trio, but I can't find anything to support that. The original single had no vocal credits listed. My guess is that the producers used studio vocalists for the track and just credited it to Uptown. Then later when it was picked up for reissue, they either got two of the three girls to be Uptown Girls or they hired on two new ones - Jan & Michelle. Whatever the case, this certainly was a fun dance floor filler. The producers totally transformed the original's chilled, aching mid-tempo version into a furious dance track and it worked. Obviously it's not going to surpass The Temptations' original (see below), but this dance version was solid enough to make a mark of its own. I'm sure the producers were working on virtually no budget and yet it sounds damn good for an 80s indie track. I don't think it was prime for Top 40 success because it really was club oriented, but it should have done better on the chart.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by The Temptations. Their 1966 version peaked at #1 on the R&B chart while getting to #8 at Pop. It was their fifth R&B #1 and third Pop Top 10. Besides The Temptations and Uptown, two other artists have reached the Pop chart with versions of the song. Rock band Rare Earth recorded a 10-minute version that appeared on their 1970 album Ecology. An edited single would be released and it would get to #7 Pop (#20 R&B). The following year, Rod Stewart recorded the song with his former bandmates from Faces. It appeared on Stewart's breakthrough solo album Every Picture Tells a Story. The tune was released as a single and it would get to #24 Pop.  2) In clubs, this song became known as "The Siren Song" thanks to the blaring sound at the beginning. It was like a notification or call for everyone to get to the dance floor. DJ Rick Squillante first broke the song at a popular Dallas hotspot called the Starck Club. He would go on to introduce other soon-to-be dance hits and he quickly became one of the most influential club DJs in the country. He was eventually lured into the music biz to work for the US branch of Virgin Records. He became successful enough there for the label to reward him with his own imprint, Virgin Underground. Unfortunately, the music biz changes constantly and in 1998 Squillante found himself on the layoff side of things after reorgs at Virgin. He then dropped out of the business altogether. In 2001, Squillante would commit suicide.