Saturday, January 4, 2020

"Don't Need a Gun" by Billy Idol

Song#:  3002
Date:  01/24/1987
Debut:  72
Peak:  37
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Idol's third album, Whiplash Smile, spawned his second biggest hit to-date with the #6 remake "To Be a Lover." His rocked up version of the old soul tune also became his biggest hit to-date on the Rock chart getting to #2. For a follow-up, this Idol-penned track was selected. It performed fine at Rock reaching #10, but it didn't do as well at Pop where it just made the Top 40. Just prior to the song being pushed out as a single, the album (#6) would receive a platinum certification.

ReduxReview:  This was a dark, charging track that featured nice production by Keith Forsey. It was a good follow-up single, but it just wasn't quite as catchy as some of Idol's other hits. Its placement on the chart was about right. It was more suited to Rock radio and indeed it did much better there. I liked the track and thought it was another solid entry in Idol's catalog.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  I actually wrote this posting during the holiday season of '86 and while looking at Idol's discography, I discovered that he actually recorded a Christmas album. In 2005, Idol released his sixth studio album Devil's Playground. One of the tracks on the album was titled "Yellin' at the Xmas Tree." The rockin' track, written by Idol and Brian Tichy, was a bit of a surprise, but it seemed to work and proved to be popular. So much so that Idol or someone in his camp thought that a full-on Christmas album was a good idea. Idol went into the studio with Tichy and came up with 2006's Happy Holidays. But instead of doing a rock-oriented holiday LP that was in-line with "Yellin' at the Xmas Tree," Idol simply did straight, crooning versions of seasonal standards like "White Christmas," "Jingle Bell Rock," and "Frosty the Snowman" backed by a little studio combo of guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. Idol even filmed videos for a few of the songs that look like something an old school square singer from the 50s might have done. On one hand, it's a little creepy and unnerving. On the other, it kind of works. Idol plays is straight for the most part but adds some of his trademark snarling flourishes on occasion. One wonders if this was done ironically or if Idol was truly serious about this. Whatever the case, it is certainly an oddity in his catalog.


Friday, January 3, 2020

"Come Go with Me" by Exposé

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3001
Date:  01/24/1987
Debut:  73
Peak:  5
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Latin Freestyle, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This vocal trio was the brainchild of Miami DJ/producer/songwriter Lewis Martineé. In 1984, he found three women to front his brand of dance/freestyle music. He gave them the name X-Posed and then wrote and produced a debut single titled "Point of No Return," which was issued out on the small indie Pantera Records label. The song started to get attention and that led to Arista Records stepping in and signing the group, who then became Exposé. The single was put out by Arista and it became a big club hit reaching #1 on the Dance chart. A second single, "Exposed to Love," did fairly well getting to #19 Dance. With the good results, Arista called for a full album. Martineé and the trio delivered a debut album titled Exposure and this track was selected as the trio's next single. Once again, the clubs responded well to the tune and it hit #1 on the Dance chart. The same week it reached #1, the single debuted on the Pop chart. It would eventually reach the Top 10. While the album would only get to #16, thanks to three more hits it would have a long shelf live and eventually sell over three million copies.

ReduxReview:  To me, this was the song that started the trend of female vocal groups doing Freestyle. Some others had charted already, but this was the mainstream breakthrough. Martineé had the exact right formula. This song and others on the album had the right combination of Freestyle, dance-pop, and hooks to make them irresistible. I always thought this song was fun and I liked the riff at the start with the keyboard building up the excitement by upping the notes in the progression. Actually, I always laugh and do a bit of mimicking when I hear it because it reminds me of music for some dance troop where each time the riff is played, a new dancer starts to move with the group. Perhaps like something you'd see at a local pageant where all the contestants have to participate in a number. It cracks me up. I bought the single back in the day and I still think its a fun listen.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The original Exposé trio was made up of Sandra Casañas, Alé Lorenzo, and Laurie Miller. These are the voices heard on the original "Point of No Return" and "Exposed to Love" singles. However, when it came time to record the album, these three were out and a new trio was hired. What happened to cause the shift is hard to decipher as stories vary. One report says that Arista didn't think they original three had star quality and wanted them replaced. Another article says one girl quit and the other two got fired. Another source says that Lorenzo wanted to leave the group to pursue her own career and that Casañas was let go. Miller was supposed to stay on, but then decided to leave. Whatever happened, when it came time to record the album, there were three new vocalists: Jeanette Jurado, Gioia Bruno, and Ann Curless. These three women supplied the vocals on eight of the album's ten tracks. When initially released, the album included the original recordings of "Point of No Return" and "Exposed to Love." However, "Point of No Return" would be re-recorded by the new trio for single release and future printings of the LP include the new version. Each of the three original Exposé members would try for a solo career. Casañas, under the name Sandeé, had the best success. She got three singles on the Dance chart including the 1989 #9 "Notice Me" along with two R&B entries and one Pop chart single, 1991's #49 "Love Desire." Both Lorenzo and Casañas would supply backing vocals for another assembled Miami group Will to Power. Their debut album contained the #1 Pop hit "Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley."


Thursday, January 2, 2020

"Let's Go" by Wang Chung

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3000
Date:  01/24/1987
Debut:  74
Peak:  9
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Wang Chung grabbed their first US Top 10 hit with "Everybody Have Fun Tonight," the lead single from their album Mosaic. It would reach #2 on the Pop chart. To follow it up, this next track was selected. The tune took its time climbing the chart and it eventually got inside the Top 10. It was also a minor entry on the Dance chart at #41. The hit helped sell a few more albums and eventually it would go gold.

ReduxReview:  With its big, hooky chorus, this song served as an excellent follow-up to "Everybody Have Fun Tonight." It was also nice that both of the duo got a chance on lead vocal duties with Jack Hues on the verses and Nick Feldman on the bridge. Sadly, this song gets overlooked these days. Even the lower charting "Dance Hall Days" seems to get more attention. This tune certainly showed that the duo had the goods to create catchy pop hits, but unfortunately it would end up being their last one to crack the Top 10.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Prior to releasing Mosaic, Wang Chung contributed a song to the soundtrack for the 1985 hit film The Breakfast Club. Songwriter/producer Keith Forsey was in charge of the film's music (along with Gary Chang) and co-wrote/produced several songs with various artists including Wang Chung. Their track "Fire in the Twilight" was written by Wang Chung's Jack Hues along with Forsey and Steve Schiff, and produced by Forsey. It was released as a single, but couldn't get on the Pop chart. It bubbled under at a very minor #110. Of course, the big hit from the soundtrack was the #1 "Don't You (Forget About Me" by Simple Minds.


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

"Cry Wolf" by a-ha

Song#:  2999
Date:  01/24/1987
Debut:  82
Peak:  50
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synthpop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This Norwegian band scored one of the decade's most memorable hits with the #1 "Take on Me." It was from their debut album, Hunting High and Low, that got to #15 and went platinum. By the fall of '86, the band was ready to release their follow-up album Scoundrel Days. In the UK and other territories, the first single from the LP was "I've Been Losing You." It did well getting to #1 in Norway and #8 in the UK. This song would be the second single issued out and it did equally as well reaching #2 in Norway and #5 UK. Stateside, it would be used as the album's first single. The track made some headway on the Dance chart getting to #14, but at Pop the best it could do was a Top 50 placement. "I'll Be Losing You" would follow it up, but the tune failed to chart. With those results, the album stopped at a low #74. Unfortunately, this song would be the band's last to get on the US Pop chart. Their last song to reach any US chart would be their 1990 remake of The Everly Brothers 1962 #6 hit "Crying in the Rain." That tune would get to #26 at AC. The band would remain popular throughout Europe for many years, but in the States they basically remained a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  I think a-ha got a bum deal in the US with Scoundrel Days. Yeah, it didn't contain a "Take on Me"-sized hit, but this song, the rockin' "I've Been Losing You" and the shape-shifting "Manhattan Skyline" (#4 Norway/#13 UK) were good tracks that should have at least gotten them into the Top 40. It was definitely an underrated album in the States. This anxious tune with a memorable chorus played to a-ha's strengths, yet hardly anyone in the US paid attention. Perhaps folks were looking for a sequel to "Take on Me" and its popular experimental video. There may also have been promo problems at the label. I remember MTV premiering a-ha's video for "I've Been Losing You" and touting it as the first single, but that didn't happen. Maybe feedback made them change their minds and then they decided to issue out "Cry Wolf." I dunno. Something funky happened and it caused a-ha to sink quickly in the US. The band's third album, Stay on These Roads, was also a solid effort.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although a-ha's fortunes quickly dried up in the US, they were big stars in many other countries including the UK. That led to the band being selected to supply the title song to the 1988 installment of the James Bond film series, The Living Daylights, which was the first to star Timothy Dalton as Bond. The band worked with the film's score composer, John Barry, and came up with "The Living Daylights." It was released as a single and it hit the Top 10 in many countries including Norway (#1) and the UK (#5), yet it failed to reach any chart in the US. It kicked off an unfortunate pattern with the next four Bond theme songs unable to get on the US Pop chart (the artists on those themes were Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, and Garbage). It took Madonna to turn things around with her 2002 #8 title track "Die Another Day." Apparently, a-ha and John Barry didn't get along very well so it created a tense atmosphere in the studio. In the end, a-ha liked the string arrangement Barry added to the tune, but overall they were not fully pleased with the final product. The band ended up reworking the song with producer Alan Tarney for inclusion on their third album, 1988's Stay on These Roads. The Pretenders were considered for supplying the theme song, but the film's producers thought a-ha could come up with a hit in the same way Duran Duran did with the previous Bond theme "A View to a Kill" (#1 Pop). The Pretenders still supplied two songs to the soundtrack with "Where Has Everybody Gone?" getting some airplay and making to #26 on the US Rock chart. In addition to The Pretenders, music from Pet Shop Boys was also considered. They submitted demos for songs and were eager to also work on the score as well, but producers selected a-ha. Pet Shop Boys would later salvage what would have been the movie's main theme song and turned it into "This Must Be the Place I Waited Years to Leave," a track from their 1990 album Behavior.


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

"The Final Countdown" by Europe

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2998
Date:  01/24/1987
Debut:  83
Peak:  8
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Arena Rock, Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  This Swedish band first formed in 1979 as Force. They spent the next few years honing their skills and learning to write songs. In 1982, the girlfriend of a band member entered them into a new music competition called Rock-SM. Over 4,000 rock acts submitted tapes to the contest and Force was one that got selected to compete. They made it to the finals where eight acts competed on live TV. By that point, the band had changed its name from Force to Europe. They ended up winning the contest and the prize of a record deal. The band released two albums, both of which were successful in Sweden and also Japan. Epic Records then came calling and offered the band a contract. Their first effort for the label was "Rock the Night," a song that appeared in the Swedish film On the Loose. It would be a #4 hit in Sweden in 1985. This led to the band's third album, The Final Countdown. It was produced by Kevin Elson, who had co-produced three of Journey's biggest albums including 1981's multi-platinum Escape. The title track from the album was released as the first single in the fall of '86. It would be a #1 hit in Sweden and other European countries. The song made its way to the States at the beginning of '87. It caught on as well and made the US Pop Top 10 while getting to #18 at Rock. In March of '87 the album would peak at #8.

ReduxReview:  It's odd that this song just happened to be the one to get posted on New Year's Eve!  A final countdown for the year!  Oh that honking keyboard. So very 80s and so very recognizable. It was kind of fun when the song first came out, but it wore on my nerves quickly. That dang riff was played constantly, especially at sporting events. It was like someone stabbing me in the ears every time I heard it. I just wanted it to go away. It never did. It is still around. A recent Geiko commercial featured the tune and the band (actually, the ad was pretty hilarious). What's funny is that there is not much to the song except the riff and the title. There are two verses, but no one remembers them or probably even realizes it is about leaving Earth for a new planet because Earth is pretty much done. I was never a fan of the tune, but I will say that the riff/chorus of the song was brilliant. They created an indelible earworm that has lasted for decades. I certainly wish I had written it. I just don't really wanna hear it.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The band never meant for this song to be the LP's lead single. With their major label debut coming up along with an impending tour, the band wanted something grand and exciting to start off their concerts and to be the album's opening track. Band member and songwriter Joey Tempest revived a keyboard lick he came up with a few years earlier and wrote the song around it. When Tempest played a demo of the song for the band, they weren't necessarily excited by it. After some coaxing, everyone got on board and realized the finished product was good and would be perfect for opening their concerts. When it came time to pick a single for the album, Tempest suggested this song, but no one else thought it would be a hit. It wasn't until their label, Epic, picked it as their choice for a first single that the band came around to the idea.  2) Countless acts around the world have done really bad cover tunes. Luckily, not many of them get recorded either in the studio or on video. However, a performance captured on video of "The Final Countdown" by a band from Sweden went viral and was quickly called the worst cover ever. Deep Sunshine got together in 2003 and was mainly a cover band with a few originals tossed in. At some point in 2006, they performed at an outdoor venue and it was recorded on video. One of the songs they played in front of what seemed like minimal people was "The Final Countdown." It wasn't...well...good. With a wanky keyboard and an off-key singer, the band slogged their way through the tune. Someone then posted a video of the song on YouTube. It somehow got picked up by the website Fark and masses of people started to view the video. It has since racked up over 5 million views. A few years later, a video from the same performance was put on YouTube showing the band doing their original song "Big Tree." They sound better on the song, but of course that didn't lead to many views - just over 2k.


Monday, December 30, 2019

"All I Want" by Howard Jones

Song#:  2997
Date:  01/24/1987
Debut:  90
Peak:  76
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Jones' third album, One to One, got kicked off with the #17 single "You Know I Love You...Don't You?" It wasn't necessarily the best start following a platinum album and a #4 hit, "No One Is to Blame," so it was key that the LP's next single did well in order to keep interest in the album going. This track was selected, but it couldn't get the job done. It stalled quite early on the Pop chart to become his lowest peaking single to-date in the US. The warning signs of a potential chart dud were there since it was actually the album's first single in the UK in the fall of '86 and it stalled at #35 there. In turn, the album would falter and only get to #59, which was a far cry from the #10 peak of his previous LP Dream Into Action.

ReduxReview:  I was a big HoJo fan at the time and I was thrilled when "You Know I Love You" came out. I loved it and looked forward to the album. However, the album ended up being a slight disappointment. It was still a good effort, but the songs just weren't as catchy, quirky or interesting as the ones on his previous albums. Jones was expanding his sound and trying to mature as an artist (he was even phasing out his big 80s hairdo) and that made One to One more of a transition album. Besides "You Know I Love You" there wasn't much in the way of single candidates. I have to agree that this tune was the logical choice for a second single, but I knew it wouldn't get far. It was a more mysterious and darker song for Jones and I don't think folks wanted that from him at the time.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1987, Jones and his manager, David Stopps, got the opportunity to own a restaurant in New York City. Jones and Stopps were vegetarians and when in town they frequented the vegetarian restaurant Macie's Mad Dog Cafe. Owner Joth Arnoldy wanted to open up a bigger vegetarian restaurant/bar and brought up the idea to Jones and Stopps. They jumped on board and a spot for the restaurant was found on Waverly Place in the West Village. Everything came together and the restaurant called Nowhere was opened in October of '87. Unfortunately, just four weeks later, a lit cigarette left on a couch in the bar caused a fire that nearly destroyed the place. They could have closed, but decided to renovate and reopen. The new Nowhere opened in January of '88. The restaurant did well and attracted celebs like Madonna and Lou Reed. It is unknown when Nowhere closed, but it doesn't exist any longer. As of this posting date, it looks like the former space is now the home of Josie Wood's Pub.


Sunday, December 29, 2019

"Big Mistake" by Peter Cetera

Song#:  2996
Date:  01/24/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  61
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Cetera's second solo album and first since leaving his band Chicago, Solitude/Solitaire, spawned two #1 hits including his duet with Amy Grant "The Next Time I Fall." Getting back to solo mode, this third single was issued out. The song was originally slated to be the first single from the LP, but then the movie soundtrack tune "Glory of Love" got released instead. It was probably a wise choice since that song hit #1 and this single stalled low on the chart. A fourth single, "Only Love Knows Why," made it to #24 at AC, but missed the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Releasing an uptempo tune after two big ballad hits was a good idea, but this just wasn't the right song for the job. Had it been the lead single, who knows what might have happened to the album. Much in the same way that Chicago's 80s hits were nearly all big ballads, Cetera, perhaps inadvertently, started off his solo career the same way. People wanted Cetera crooning power ballads, not fronting synth-rock fare like this song. Breaking out of the ballad mode might have worked with a stronger song. This one wasn't going to do it. It was fine for an album track, but it just wasn't catchy enough to lure in listeners at Pop radio. As the coda of this song alluded to, Cetera wrote this when he was with Chicago. A few of the band's tracks had an outro that gave the horn section something to do and the one on this song seemed like that would have been the case if Chicago had recorded it. Even if they did, this still would not have been a good single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After his solo album, Cetera recorded a one-off tune that would be used in a Japanese film. "Stay with Me" would play over the closing credits of the fantasy movie Princess from the Moon. Based on the ancient story The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, the film performed well in Japan and would win three Japanese Academy Awards. It starred one of Japan's most famous actors, Toshiro Mifune (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Rashomon). Cetera's song was written by Bobby Caldwell and John Parker. Caldwell co-produced with Cetera. Cetera and Caldwell had previously worked together. Caldwell had co-written the hit "The Next Time I Fall" for Cetera. "Stay with Me" would be issued out as a single in Japan. It got to #40 on the chart there.