Saturday, May 2, 2020

"Little Suzi" by Tesla

Song#:  3121
Date:  05/16/1987
Debut:  95
Peak:  91
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  The roots of this band from Sacramento, California, began in 1981 when Brian Wheat and Frank Hannon were in a band called Earthshaker. The following year they put together a new outfit called City Kidd and over the next few years they developed their songwriting skills while gaining a following in the clubs. By 1984, the group had a steady lineup and after a couple of L.A. showcase performances, Geffen Records came calling. The band was signed and work began on their debut album. The only sticking point was their name - City Kidd. Their management thought it was an awful name and suggested a change. The band settled on Tesla, which was a reference to the inventor Nikola Tesla. After the LP Mechanical Resonance was completed, the first song serviced to radio was "Modern Day Cowboy." The rockin' track didn't make a big impression, but it did appear on the Rock chart at #35. Next up was this track. The tune was a bit more radio friendly and it did better reaching #22 at Rock. The attention there prompted an official single release and the song ended up on the Pop chart for just a minor few weeks. Despite the song's results, it was enough to promote the band and the album finished well reaching #32. It would even reach gold-level sales by the fall. It would eventually go platinum after the band broke through in a bigger way with their second LP.

ReduxReview:  Sometimes songs were just meant to get to a wider audience. The original version of this tune (see below) was actually a pretty cool new wave track that surprisingly got ignored. Thanks to an updated rock take by Tesla, the song got a new lease on life. I think this track was popular in my local area as I remember hearing it quite a bit on the radio. It's too bad it didn't get further on either the Rock or Pop chart. It did okay, but it was good enough to make a better impression. However, it helped the band's album go gold, so I think it did better than what the chart positions may have suggested and it led them to getting a pair of Top 10's later on.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the British new wave band Ph.D. under the title "Little Suzi's on the Up." The 1981 track was the band's first single from their self-titled debut album. It failed to chart, but its follow-up "I Won't Let You Down" was a major hit reaching #3 in the UK and hitting #1 in a few other countries (the song and album were released in the US, but neither charted). The band's name was a take on the last names of its three members, Simon Phillips, Tony Hymas, and lead singer Jim Diamond (who sounded a lot like Simply Red's Mick Hucknall, especially on some of their other tracks) arranged as a sort of take on the university degree. The band would end up being a one-hit wonder with none of their other singles hitting the UK chart. A second album failed to do anything and the band split. Jim Diamond had a little better luck as a solo artist. He signed with A&M and his 1984 self-titled album contained the #1 UK hit "I Should Have Known Better" (an original written by Diamond and Graham Lyle, not the Beatles hit). His second album earned him a #5 single with "Hi Ho Silver," which served as the theme song to the British crime drama series Boon.  2) So how did an obscure non-charting song from a UK artist get to a US hard rock band? While not fully known how Tesla learned of the track, one guess is that it could have been due to the attention the song got on MTV. The day MTV first began (August 1, 1981), Ph.D.'s "Little Suzi's on the Up" was the fifth video played. Since there wasn't a whole lot of music videos around at the time, the song ended up getting quite a bit if airplay. Anyone who watched MTV in those beginning days most certainly would have remember the track.


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