Saturday, February 1, 2020

"Light of Day" by The Barbusters (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts)

Song#:  3030
Date:  02/21/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  33
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Jett had been in the music business since the mid-70s and became a major star in the 80s scoring hits with her band The Blackhearts. This afforded her other opportunities including a chance to act. Initially reluctant to play a rock musician for her first foray into acting, Jett agreed to appear in the Paul Schrader drama Light of Day alongside Michael J. Fox. The pair would play brother and sister who were looking for stardom via their local Cleveland rock band called The Barbreakers. Of course, there would be family drama along the way courtesy of their mother portrayed by Gena Rowlands. The band in the film, made up of Jett, Fox, Michael McKean (guitarist from This Is Spinal Tap), Paul Harkins, and Michael Dolan, actually rehearsed and performed songs in the film including this title track. However, for the soundtrack album, this tune was re-recorded by Jett along with the Blackhearts. It was issued out as a single and got to #13 Rock while cracking the Pop Top 40. The song along with the film helped the soundtrack (which also featured music from Bon Jovi, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Dave Edmunds) get to #82.

ReduxReview:  This is a pretty good rip rocker from Springsteen (see below) and Jett does a solid job with it. It sounds like a retro 60s rock track amped up for the 80s. It was certainly much better and more commercial leaning than the tunes Jett had been pushing out over the previous few years. In some ways, I think this song put Jett on the map again and she would take advantage of it with her next album to great effect. The movie's casting had people at odds. Some thought Fox was miscast, others didn't. Same with Jett. It was not a great film either way. I didn't buy into Fox being a blue collar guy in a rock band. It didn't work for me. However, I thought Jett was surprisingly good. The film is watchable thanks to her and Gena Rowlands. Otherwise, meh. The best thing from it all was this song, which Springsteen thought highly enough of to include in many of his concerts.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was written by Bruce Springsteen and given the Paul Schrader to use in the film. The story goes that Schrader originally wrote the screenplay earlier in the 80s and titled it Born in the U.S.A. He apparently passed it to Springsteen a) to verify his portrayal of a working class family, b) as a possible acting project for Springsteen, c) to write a song for the film, or d) all of the above (as accounts of what happened vary). Springsteen didn't bite at the project, but the title got to him and he ended up writing what would be the title track to his mega-hit album Born in the U.S.A. (Springsteen thanked Schrader in the LP's liner notes). A few years later, Schrader finally got back to his screenplay and got it green-lit to make. By that time, Schrader couldn't use his original title. Springsteen felt bad about that and offered up one of his other tunes to Schrader. Originally titled "Just Around the Corner to the Light of Day," Springsteen had recorded a demo of the tune as a possible track for Born in the U.S.A. The song worked for Schrader who also wanted to use it as the title of the film. However, it make it more palatable to movie goers, the song and movie title were shortened.  2) After establishing himself as a viable comedic lead in two 1985 hit films, Back to the Future and Teen Wolf, Michael J. Fox wanted to show his dramatic side and took the role in Light of Day. In a Rolling Stone article, it seems that Fox was approached for the role due in part to his popularity, but also because he had a resemblance to the person who was originally wanted for the sister role, singer Fiona. She ended up not working out for some reason and Jett was brought on board. The film came out to mixed reviews and it didn't do all that well at the box office. Fox would return to comedy later in '87 with the hit flick The Secret of My Success.


Friday, January 31, 2020

"Dance" by Ratt

Song#:  3029
Date:  02/21/1987
Debut:  92
Peak:  59
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  Ratt's first two albums both peaked at #7, featured Top 40 hits, and went multi-platinum. It was a solid one-two punch from the band and they were hoping to do the same thing with their third album Dancing Undercover. This first single got things started, but it couldn't quite replicate the success of the first singles from their previous albums. It stopped way shy of the Pop Top 40 while only getting to #36 at Rock. Two other songs from the album were promoted to radio, but neither charted at Rock and were not officially released as singles. The lack of a bigger hit affected the album, which stalled at #26. Yet relentless touring and a big fan base still helped the album go platinum.

ReduxReview:  Third time wasn't necessarily the charm for Ratt. With other glam/metal bands nipping at their heels and gaining chart traction, Ratt should have tried to up their game. Instead, they played it safe and basically did a rinse-n-repeat thing with their producer Beau Hill and the results were just not as good. This track was obviously meant to be the big crossover anthem, but it didn't have the same hooky, commercial appeal as something like "Round and Round" (#12 Pop/#4 Rock). Actually, parts of this song seem to recall that hit making it more like a retread than something new and different. It's not a bad tune, but it's a case of been there, heard that.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Before becoming a sought after producer, Beau Hill had the opportunity to be a recording star. Hill had been writing and performing music since he was a young teen. He transferred those skills to behind the boards as an engineer for a recording studio. It was there he did demos of his own music and a band called Airborne was eventually formed. Via another producer, Keith Olsen, Hill's demos were heard over at Columbia Records and the band got signed to the label. Olsen would produce their self-titled debut LP, which came out in 1979. Despite some positive notices, the album went nowhere and the band dissolved. Hill later joined the band Spider, which had some chart success earlier in the 80s ("New Romance," #39 Pop). Hill came along as the band went through some changes and for their third album they changed their name to Shanghai. Signed to Chrysalis, the band's 1982 self-titled album failed to replicate the success of the two Spider albums. Hill then settled back into the engineer/producer role and his big break came when he produced Ratt's debut album Out of the Cellar.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

"All I Know Is the Way I Feel" by The Pointer Sisters

Song#:  3028
Date:  02/21/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  93
Weeks:  2
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The trio's twelfth studio album and eighth with producer Richard Perry, Hot Together, got off to a rough start. Its first single, "Goldmine," stalled early on the charts getting to #33 Pop, #17 R&B, and #27 AC. It did better on the Dance chart getting to #7 in combination with another album track "Sexual Power." Still, it didn't set the album up for success and a bigger hit was needed in order to boost sales. This ballad was then selected as the second single. The Sisters had become more known for their catchy dance-pop, so this change of pace track was a bit of a risk. It was one that ultimately didn't pay off. The song stopped at #69 at R&B and #36 AC while only getting on the Pop chart for two short weeks. It was their worst performing single of the decade. A third single, "Mercury Rising," halted at #49 R&B and failed to make the Pop chart. The results left the album as a tepid seller only reaching #39 R&B and #48 Pop. It failed to go gold, which was highly disappointing following two platinum sellers.

ReduxReview:  By this point in the 80s, pop music had changed and the trio's quirky dance-pop with producer Perry (and many of the same writers) was getting tired and dated. They should have switched producers after their previous album Contact and updated their sound to something more modern, but they stuck with the tried and true and it failed them. While it wasn't a bad idea to change things up and push out a ballad, this one wasn't the right choice. Written by Jerry Ragavoy ("Piece of My Heart") and Estelle Levitt, the tune made for an okay album track, but it wasn't even close to being single-worthy. There wasn't much to make it memorable or appeal to a mainstream radio audience. It was just flat and a bit boring.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The title track to the Hot Together album would get picked up for use in a couple of films released in 1987. The song was included in the Mel Brooks spoof flick Spaceballs. The movie was a send-up of the Star Wars franchise and a soundtrack album was released. In addition to the Pointer Sisters track, the LP included songs from Kim Carnes, Jeffrey Osborne, The Spinners, and Van Halen. The Spinners recorded an original theme song titled "Spaceballs" and it was issued out as a single, but it did not chart and the soundtrack quickly disappeared. At the time, Spaceballs received mixed reviews and was able to recoup its budget at the box office. It later turned into a bit of a cult flick and has been referenced many times in pop culture. The auto company Tesla has even used the movie's spaceship speeds to name the various accelerations points in their cars. The other film that "Hot Together" was featured in was the Richard Dreyfuss/Emilio Estevez action comedy Stakeout. That film would be a critical and box office success. An official soundtrack with songs from the film was not released.


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend)" by Mel & Kim

Song#:  3027
Date:  02/21/1987
Debut:  96
Peak:  78
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  This UK duo was made up of sisters Melanie and Kim Appleby. Both of them loved music and had dreams of being pop music stars, but the realities of growing up poor in East London hit home and they dropped out of school to work various jobs. Encouraged by her mother, Mel ended up submitting her pictures for modeling and she began to get work as a glamour model for magazines such as Mayfair, the UK equivalent of Playboy or Penthouse. Her modeling career took off and that gave her the connections and means to then pursue a music career. She went into a studio to make a demo, but then the producer found out Mel had a sister who also sang. Kim then joined Mel and they recorded a demo under the name of Kimmel. Supreme Records decided to give the sisters a shot and signed them on. They then became Mel & Kim and Supreme introduced them to the songwriting/production team of Stock Aitken Waterman, who recently had success with Dead or Alive and Bananarama. SAW began working with the duo and their first effort was a track called "System." It was to be their first single, but prior to release, SAW didn't think it was the right song to introduce Mel & Kim. They chose to write another and got Mel & Kim to record "Showing Out." The song was release in the UK in the fall of '86 and it became a hit reaching #3. The song was then pushed across the Atlantic and early in '87 the tune hit #1 on the US Dance chart. It then crossed over to Pop where it circled the bottom of the chart for nearly two months. The duo's follow-up single, "Respectable," would hit #1 in the UK. It was SAW's second production and first song they wrote to hit the top spot. The song would reach #1 on the US Dance chart, but it failed to make the Pop chart. Mel & Kim would score two more Top 10s in the UK and their debut album, F.L.M., would be a platinum seller there. Unfortunately, their success came to a sudden halt in January of 1990 when Mel died of pneumonia. She had been diagnosed with cancer back in '85, but it seemed treatment took care of it. Then as the duo were at the height of their popularity, the cancer returned. Mel's immune system got compromised due to chemo treatments and a cold she caught turned into the pneumonia, which claimed her life at a young 23.

ReduxReview:  The SAW team was beginning to write more tunes and when combined with their production style, they came up with some solid dance-pop. Later in their career it all started to sound very cookie cutter, but early on they came up with some interesting tracks. This one mixed their production style with a bit of house music and it ended up being a fun little tune. Like Bananarama, Mel & Kim's voices weren't necessarily interesting or unique, but they got the job done and when combined with their fashion style, they were ready-to-go pop stars. This song did well in clubs, but Pop radio wasn't quite buying into it yet. "Respectable" was also a Dance hit and was actually more memorable, yet it ended up completely ignored at Pop. Like many artist that got the SAW treatment, Mel & Kim were far more popular in Europe than in the US. Sadly, it came to an end with Mel's death.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After Mel's death, Kim signed on with Parlophone and began a solo career. Her self-titled debut arrived late in 1990. It consisted of songs that Kim had been writing with Mel in anticipation of their second album. The SAW team did not participate on Kim's solo effort. Her first single, "Don't Worry," became a #2 hit. It was followed by the #10 "G.L.A.D" and two other lesser charting songs. Her second album, 1993's Breakaway failed to replicate her debut's success. A reunion single with SAW in 1994 titled "Free Spirit" didn't perform well and that closed out Kim's solo charting career.


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

"Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" by Genesis

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3026
Date:  02/14/1987
Debut:  45
Peak:  3
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Genesis' album Invisible Touch had already spawned four Pop Top 10 singles including the last one "Land of Confusion" (#4). The band was on a hot streak so the label thought they would roll the dice and issue out a fifth single from the LP. This track was selected and it ended up being the right choice. It would get to #3 at Pop while reaching #8 at AC and #45 Rock. The five Top 10s would easily make the album the band's biggest seller. It would eventually go 6x platinum in the US alone. After the associated world tour was finished, the band took a nearly five-year break. In that time each member attended to their own projects including another solo disc for Phil Collins and another effort by Mike Rutherford's Mike + the Mechanics. They wouldn't reconvene Genesis until after the start of the new decade, so that made this single their last one to be released in the 80s.

ReduxReview:  The album version of this song was an 8+ minute track that was something more along the lines of their previous prog rock inclinations rather than the more pop oriented fare that got them four Top 10 hits. But after editing it down into a single and getting featured in a commercial (see below), the song ended up being just as mainstream as the other hits. I really liked the track and thought it was one of of the best ones on the album. I liked the atmosphere it created and the hook of the chorus was undeniable. I also liked both the single version, which made the tune a concise, easy listen, and the lengthy album track that provided a lot of other shadings. They certainly ended the decade on a high note.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song got a major boost when it was picked up for use in a Michelob beer commercial. The company's campaign slogan at the time was "the night was made for Michelob" and the chorus of this song along with its feel/tone seemed to fit the ad to a tee. Indeed it worked out well with the song going Top 10 and the Michelob campaign highly successful. The only oddity is that while the ad uses the chorus to great effect creating a relaxed, pleasant, and casual atmosphere, the actual song lyrics were about trying to score some cocaine after coming down from a high and needing more. Obviously, that part was skipped over for the commercial.  2) Invisible Touch would be only the fifth album in chart history to generate five Top 10 singles. It followed albums by Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Bruce Springsteen, and Janet Jackson. Jackson's Control and the Genesis album were originally released in 1986. Two other albums released that year would also later join the five Top 10s club. Madonna's True Blue would join in as well as Huey Lewis & the News' Fore!  3) In 1991, Genesis would come roaring back with their fourteenth studio album We Can't Dance. It featured five Top 30 hits including the lone Top 10 "I Can't Dance" (#7 Pop/#2 Rock). The LP would reach #4 and sell over four million copies. In 1996 after another lengthy hiatus, Phil Collins decided to leave Genesis. The remaining two members chose to move forward with new lead singer Ray Wilson. The new Genesis trio issued out Calling All Stations in 1997. None if its singles reached the Pop chart and the LP fizzled at #54. To date, this has been the last Genesis studio album released. Collins, Rutherford, and Tony Banks would reunite for a world tour in 2007 and a couple of other later appearances, but the trio has yet to attempt a comeback album.


Monday, January 27, 2020

"Lean on Me" by Club Nouveau

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  3025
Date:  02/14/1987
Debut:  47
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  17
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  After the Timex Social Club hit it big with their #8 hit "Rumors," problems ensued and the group quickly disbanded leaving them known as a one-hit wonder. The co-producer of the song, Jay King, felt a bit burned by the TSC situation and so he formed his own group that was initially called Jet Set. King then changed the name to Club Nouveau (French for "new club") as a bit of a stab back to the Timex Social Club. The band's first single was an answer song of sorts to "Rumors" titled "Jealousy." It was a hit at R&B getting to #8. The follow-up single, "Situation #9," also followed into the Top 10 (#4). Neither made the Pop chart, but this third single finally did. The cover tune (see below) struck the right chord with a mainstream audience and the single bounded up to #1 at Pop and Dance while getting to #2 at R&B. Sales of the single were strong and it eventually went gold. In turn, the group's debut album Live, Love & Pain, would be a platinum seller that reached #2 R&B and #6 Pop. Club Nouveau would later grab a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, while the song would win composer Bill Withers a Grammy for Best R&B Song. It was a great start for the group, but then it seemed their star burned too bright too fast and it quickly began to fizzle. Despite their next single getting to #2 at R&B, it was a minor #39 entry at Pop. Then their follow-up albums failed to generate any sizable hits. In the end, this song would be their only major hit at Pop and because of that it got them tagged as a one-hit wonder (#94 on VH1's list of Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s).

ReduxReview:  This classic tune was never really one of my favorites, but I appreciated Withers' original (see below) and when played in the right context the song can be quite inspirational. Now, take that lovely little tune and then add beats, claps, farting vocal samples, screaming synths, and someone yelling "we be jammin'" and you have Club Nouveau's grating version. I just can't stress enough how much I hated this song back in the day. It made my ears bleed. I thought they completely desecrated the original. I wanted to throw a rock at any speaker that this song came out of. Frankly, I still do. After avoiding it all these years I thought that perhaps it might not sound so bad now. I was wrong. It is still just as horrible now as it was then. The beats are dorky, the production is loud and overdone, the vocals are indistinguishable, and the "we be jammin'" is as silly and out of place as ever. For me, it's still not only the worst hit remake of the decade, but one of the worst songs of the decade period. On the positive side, I'm glad it got Withers a Grammy and I hope he made a bunch of cash off this thing.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally written and performed by R&B singer/songwriter Bill Withers. It was the first single lifted from his 1972 album Still Bill. The tune would reach #1 on both the Pop and R&B charts. His follow-up single, "Use Me," would get to #2 on each chart. The album would be his first gold seller. Withers would have some success in the early 80s returning to the Top 10 with "Just the Two of Us" (#2 Pop/#3 R&B). With Club Nouveau hitting #1 at Pop, it made "Lean on Me" one of just a minor handful of songs that reached #1 on the Pop chart twice by different artists. This actually happened a few months prior for another song. In the fall of '86, Bananarama would reach #1 with "Venus," a remake of an earlier 1970 #1 hit by Shocking Blue.


Sunday, January 26, 2020

"Winner Takes It All" by Sammy Hagar

Song#:  3024
Date:  02/14/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  54
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Hagar had been enjoying his success as the new lead singer of Van Halen, but being part of that band didn't mean he had to give up other opportunities. One came his way when he was tapped to sing a tune for the soundtrack to the Sylvester Stallone sports drama flick Over the Top. Giorgio Moroder was in charge of the score and songs for the film and he co-wrote this track with Tom Whitlock. It was offered to Hagar and he agreed to record the tune. For the recording, he brought along his bandmate Eddie Van Halen. The pair co-produced the track with Moroder and both Hagar and Van Halen contributed guitar work. It was issued out as the first single from the soundtrack album and it did well at Rock reaching #3. It crossed over Pop, but the song fizzled before it could crack the top half of the chart. A second single, the more mainstream "Meet Me Half Way" by Kenny Loggins, would do much better nearly cracking the Top 10 (#11) later in the year, but even that wasn't enough to promote sales of the album, which topped out at a minor #120.

ReduxReview:  Stallone obviously wanted another big hit anthem for his movie a la Survivor, but this one wasn't quite it. The guitar-driven tune was a pretty good fit for Rock radio, but it just didn't have that mainstream movie anthem appeal. It was just a charging track with guitars screaming all over it. Nothing about it was particularly memorable or inspiring. Frankly it just sounds loud for the sake of being loud. I think Hagar and Van Halen did what they could to amp up a weak composition, but it ended up being a bit of a mess.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Hagar was the second artist to record the song for the film. It was first given to Asia's John Wetton, but it seems that Stallone (who co-wrote the script) wasn't a fan of Wetton's final version. Stallone wanted something that sounded big and tough and apparently Wetton's take on the tune just didn't check those boxes. The song was then offered to Hagar and his version seemed to fit the bill for Stallone.  2) Stallone was coming off of three big box office winners (Rambo: First Blood, Pt. 2, Rocky IV, and Cobra) when he signed up to do Over the Top. The drama focused on Stallone's relationship with his 10-year-old son (played by David Mendenhall) and the world of professional arm wrestling. Critics panned the flick and it seemed audiences didn't bite either. It ended up being a dud at the box office grossing around $11 million, which was less than half of its budget. By comparison, his previous three films earned over $700 million combined. The movie was nominated for three Golden Raspberry awards and "won" two. Mendenhall won for Worst Supporting Actor and Worst New Star while Stallone was nominated for Worst Actor.