Saturday, February 29, 2020

"What's Going On" by Cyndi Lauper

Song#:  3058
Date:  03/14/1987
Debut:  63
Peak:  12
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Lauper's second album, True Colors, was off to a good start thanks to two Top 10 hits including the #1 title track. Her debut album featured four Top 10 hits, so it was hoped that True Colors would follow suit. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. This third single started off well, but it didn't have the momentum needed to crack the Top 10 and it stalled shy of that mark. It would also be a modest entry at Dance (#17) and AC (#29). It still helped sell a few albums, but in the end it would only go double-platinum, which was a significant dip following her six-million selling debut.

ReduxReview:  Lauper had done cover tunes before this, but none were beloved classics like this one. Lots of artists had covered this song before Lauper, yet I don't think any had released it as a single (and if they did, it appears like none charted). It kinda seemed like one of those songs that no one wanted to really toy with, so it was pretty ballsy for Lauper to take it on. Especially since she wasn't known for her R&B stylings. Why she chose this song to cover is beyond me. I'm guessing she wanted something more serious on the LP and perhaps wanted to make a statement of some kind. Or maybe it was simply one of her favorite songs. Whatever the case, she ended up doing a lovely, if unremarkable, version. However, it is one I tend to skip in her catalog. On the album, this track was bookended by a couple of oddities. It started out with gun fire, which is a tad dramatic (and was eliminated from the single version), and then at the end it segued into another remake, the kooky "Iko Iko." Very strange. But that's Lauper for ya.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally co-written and performed by Marvin Gaye. Gaye's version came out in 1971 and became a #1 R&B/#2 Pop classic. If Berry Gordy (head of Tamla/Motown, Gaye's label) had had his way, this song would have never seen the light of day. The tune came about when Four Tops member Obie Benson witnessed first-hand violence and police brutality at an anti-war protest while on a tour stop in Berkeley, California. He shared his thoughts with his friend, songwriter Al Cleveland. Together they put down in words and music a reaction to the events. When finished, Benson wanted his group The Four Tops to record it, but the balance of the members didn't want to record what they considered a protest song. He then got the song over to Marvin Gaye who ended up tweaking the song's melody and lyrics. He also named it "What's Going On." Gaye had initially thought that the song should go to another Motown group The Originals, whom he had been producing, but was later convinced to record it himself. After the track was completed, Gaye presented it to Berry, who ended up hating it and refused to release it. Apparently, Berry stated that it was the worst thing he had heard in his life. Shocked and disappointed, Gaye felt so strongly about the song that he refused to record anything else until it got released. Berry wasn't giving in. Two other execs at Motown then decided to step in and they got the single quietly pushed out without Berry's knowledge. Of course it turned into a giant hit and that pretty much forced Berry to send Gaye off to quickly record an album on his own. The What's Going On album would be a success reaching #1 R&B and #6 Pop. It would also spawn two other major hits, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" (#1 R&B/#4 Pop) and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" (#1 R&B/#9 Pop). It quickly became a classic of the era and would go on to be listed on many "best of" lists including coming in at #6 on Rolling Stone's 2003 "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time."


Friday, February 28, 2020

"Talk Dirty to Me" by Poison

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3057
Date:  03/14/1987
Debut:  83
Peak:  9
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  The roots of this band go back to 1979 when lead singer Bret Michaels first started a band in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Over the next four years, the band would go through personnel and name changes while developing a good local following. Wanting to be more than just a popular local band, Michaels along with Bobby Dall, Rikki Rockett, and Matt Smith decided to take off for L.A. in 1983. They rechristened the band Poison and tried to get a foothold in L.A.'s West Hollywood club scene. The band had a rough go of it for a while, which led to Smith heading back home. C.C. DeVille would step in and take his place. Finally, after three years of building up a reputation, the band caught a break and got signed to Enigma Records. They quickly assembled a debut album titled Look What the Cat Dragged In and pushed out its first single, "Cry Tough," in the fall of '86. The song flopped and failed to chart. It didn't bode well for the album and things looked a little grim, but the band started to get noticed thanks to opening slots for other established acts like Ratt. This second single was then released and the catchy rock tune began to take off. Aided by a popular MTV video, the song climbed the Pop chart and eventually cracked the Top 10. In turn, the album began to sell and eventually hit #3 in late May.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't the biggest fan of hair/glam metal at the time, but some of it I did enjoy. The portion of it that I really disliked was the sleazy stuff and if a band tended to swing that way, I just wasn't interested in them. So when this trashy track came out, I wasn't having it. I immediately wrote Poison off. These dolled up guys (nearly looking like drag queens) with their tattoos, bad behavior, drugs, and alcohol surrounded by scantily clad babes singing about talking dirty did not enthrall me. I mean, was I supposed to take these clowns seriously? Well, a little time and distance provides a different viewpoint and while Poison is still not one of my favorite glam bands, I do have a better appreciation for their work. They did have a knack for writing fun, pumped up rock tunes with hooky choruses. They didn't put on airs and didn't pretend to be anything more than what they were. Along the way they tossed out some glam pop-ready confections like this track. I ignored it way back when, but now I find this stanky piece of bubblegum rock a bit hard to resist.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song plus four others on the album were the subject of a lawsuit. It seems that back around '84, C.C. DeVille auditioned for a band called Kid Rocker. To prepare for the audition, he was given tracks to learn. DeVille didn't end up with the band and they broke up not long after. DeVille then joined the band Screaming Mimi headed up by former Kid Rocker Billy McCarthy. But that didn't last too long as DeVille decided to try out for Poison. One of the songs he did for his audition was an early form of "Talk Dirty to Me," which DeVille had supposedly written and even performed with Screaming Mimi. DeVille got the gig and ended up co-writing all the songs on the album, which included an updated version of "Talk Dirty to Me." The LP was a major success, launched Poison's career, and became a hair metal classic. Flash forward nearly 25 (!) years later to 2011 when two of the former members of Kid Rocker, including McCarthy, decided to file a lawsuit against Poison for copyright infringement. The lawsuit claimed that DeVille, who had been given that tape of songs for his Kid Rocker audition, ended up using parts of those tunes in four tracks on Poison's debut LP including "Talk Dirty to Me" and "I Won't Forget You." Had the lawsuit been filed back in the 80s when the LP became a hit, this might have been a tricky suit. If the plaintiffs had those recordings and were able to show direct correlation between them and the Poison songs, Poison might have been in trouble. However, no one got to hear any evidence on the case because the judge deemed that too much time had passed and dismissed the suit. Why the lawsuit was filed decades after the fact is a mystery, but time was certainly not on their side. As to the question on if DeVille copped parts of Kid Rockers' song, we likely will never know and the late lawsuit kind of made the point moot.


Thursday, February 27, 2020

"Right on Track" by Breakfast Club

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  3056
Date:  03/14/1987
Debut:  85
Peak:  7
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This NYC band had been around since 1979 and had gone through several personnel changes. By 1984, they had a more steady lineup and were able to get a contract with the NYC dance label ZE Records. The band recorded a single titled "Rico Mambo" that the label released. Unfortunately, the single didn't get anywhere and then the label closed up shop. This left the band starting over again. But one of its member's association with another artist helped draw attention to the band and they landed another contract, this time with MCA Records. They proceeded to record a self-titled debut album that featured this first single that was produced by Jimmy Iovine, who was more known for his association with rock artists like Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty. The song took off and made it to the Pop Top 10 while reaching #7 at Dance and #64 at R&B. The album would see some sales and eventually peak at #43. While they weren't major breakout stars, the song and album seemed to get them noticed by the Grammy folks and they were handed a nomination for Best New Artist. Unfortunately, this song would end up being their only major hit (a second single would be a minor chart entry). Because of that, they have been referred to as a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  I remember when this song came out. Much was made of the fact that this was Madonna's former band (see below). I'm sure a big chunk of that buzz came via MCA, who were trying to play it up and cash in on the connection. I can't say I blame them. The facts were there, why not use them? But it did seem sort of a desperate way to promote. Luckily, the band sort of lived up to the hype with this tune, which, not surprisingly, had a Madonna-ish feel. It had a solid club groove with a catchy chorus. It was also enhanced by background vocals by Jocelyn Brown. The problem was that the rest of the album wasn't nearly as good and didn't contain anything as commercially viable as this hit. The band also got lucky that the hit came during a very, very weak year for new artists and they ended up with the Grammy nod. Most any other year they would have not even be in the conversation. Still, they pumped out one solid tune that's still a pretty good listen.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:   This band was initially formed by brothers Dan and Ed Gilroy. Not long after the band formed, Dan began dating a new transplant from Michigan who would later be know by a single name - Madonna. The band happened to need a drummer and Madonna quickly learned how to play and took the spot. However, she had higher ambitions and wanted to do lead vocals, which had been handled at the time by Dan. Madonna got to sing a little, but apparently she wanted the whole spotlight and Dan was not willing to give it up. Therefore, Madonna upped and left them both. She then formed her own band Emmy and the Emmys with her friend Stephen Bray. It wasn't too long before Madonna headed out on a solo career. Bray then joined up with Breakfast Club. After Madonna's career kicked off, Bray reconnected with her and they began working together again, which resulted in hits he co-wrote like "Angel" and "Into the Groove." Suddenly, Bray's profile was raised and that, in turn, helped the Breakfast Club. MCA Records apparently liked the Madonna connection and gave the band a chance (with some choice Madge-related marketing, of course).


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

"Heartbreak Beat" by Psychedelic Furs

Song#:  3055
Date:  03/14/1987
Debut:  87
Peak:  26
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  The Furs were pushed into a more mainstream spotlight when their 1981 song "Pretty in Pink" got revamped and included on the soundtrack to the popular teen rom com flick of the same name. It got issued out as a single and would become their highest charting one to-date for the band reaching #41 on the US Pop chart and #18 back in their UK homeland. With their record company wanting to pounce on the band's higher profile, they were pushed back into the studio to usher out a new album pronto. Working with producer Chris Kimsey (The Rolling Stones, Marillion), the band busted out a set of songs that would form their fifth album Midnight to Midnight. This song would be issued out as the first single. It would nearly crack the Rock Top 10 at #11 while a remix of the tune would make it to #14 at Dance. It would then become their biggest hit on the Pop chart getting inside the Top 30. The song ended up being the band's last to reach the Pop chart. A second single, "Angels Don't Cry," would fail to reach the charts, but another track, "Shock," would make it to #30 on the Dance chart. The Furs would put out two more albums before taking an extended hiatus that would last nearly twenty years.

ReduxReview:  The Furs go (a bit unwillingly) for a more commercial sound on the album and it is on full display with this single. I absolutely loved it and thought for sure it was headed to the Top 10. I was disappointed when it stalled before that mark. Was it overproduced? Yeah. Did it really reflect the Furs' sound. Not really. Apparently, the band was not happy they were being forced to rush out a more commercial album and pretty much dismissed it a while after its release. I can understand that, but in general the album wasn't all that bad and on some of the songs you could hear elements of their writing/sound. The thing was, they were already heading towards a more mainstream sound with Mirror Moves and something like this was really the next step. I just think they wanted to do it on their own terms. Instead, they got paired with the wrong producer and weren't given the time to refine their tunes or write ones they liked better. Regardless of the issues they had, I'm glad they came up with this song. I love the big chorus on it and the excessive production. I still include it on several of my playlists.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) While Midnight to Midnight would be their highest peaking effort at #29, it would not be their best selling album. Their previous two, 1982's Forever Now and 1984's Mirror Moves, would both end up being certified gold records. Forever Now would turn gold in 1991 while Mirror Moves would do it in 1994.  2) In 1988, Billboard would introduce a new chart called Modern Rock Tracks (later renamed Alternative Songs). It was developed to list the popular songs being played on alternative and modern rock radio stations, a good chunk of which were college-based. It was different from the Mainstream Rock chart that tracked action on the bigger rock radio stations. The market for alternative/modern rock had grown and the chart was to help reflect that and the artists getting exposure on the stations that might not get airplay on the more commercial rock stations. The Psychedelic Furs would benefit from the new chart. Their albums Book of Days (1989) and World Outside (1991) would feature between them five tracks that made the new chart. Three of the songs would hit #1. None of the tunes would make any other US chart, but having hits on the Modern Rock Chart showed that the band still had a good following and that people were paying attention to their music.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

"He Wants My Body" by Starpoint

Song#:  3054
Date:  03/14/1987
Debut:  95
Peak:  89
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This band's career finally took off in a bigger way when their seventh album Restless generated a couple of crossover hits including the #8 R&B/#25 Pop entry "Object of My Desire." With momentum going their way, the band went back into the studio to record their next album Sensational. This first single was released and it did well at R&B reaching #8. It was their third (and final) Top 10 on that chart. Unfortunately, it didn't catch on in a more mainstream fashion and it stumbled early on the Pop chart while getting to minor #40 at Dance. A couple more singles wound their way into the R&B Top 30, but it didn't really help album sales which were lower than their previous effort. They would release two more albums with diminishing returns before calling it a day in 1990.

ReduxReview:  For this album, the band worked with producer Preston Glass, who also wrote this song. Glass worked closely with producer Narada Michael Walden and you can hear some of that influence here. Unfortunately, the material wasn't all that great. Lead singer Renée Diggs does her best to inject some excitement into a run-o-tha-mill dance tune, but in the end it all sounds like they just tried too hard to make something out of very little.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  While Starpoint's career was in high gear, lead singer Renée Diggs got some devastating news. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Despite that, she soldiered on and continued her career with Starpoint along with her relationship with band member Ernesto Phillips. After the band split, Diggs was able to record a solo album titled Oasis, but it only saw a limited release in Europe in 1993. Later in 2004, Phillips died from a stroke. A year later, Diggs would pass away from complications due to the MS.


Monday, February 24, 2020

"There's Nothing Better Than Love" by Luther Vandross with Gregory Hines

Song#:  3053
Date:  03/14/1987
Debut:  96
Peak:  50
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Vandross got his highest entry to-date on the Pop chart with "Stop to Love," the second single from his fifth album Give Me the Reason. It was also his second #1 at R&B. To follow it up, this third single from the LP was released. It was another big winner at R&B topping the chart. It also did pretty well at AC reaching #20. Yet like several of Vandross' other singles, it couldn't make much headway on the Pop chart and it stopped at the halfway point. A fourth single, "I Really Didn't Mean It," was pushed out and it got to #6 at R&B, but it failed to chart at Pop. Despite the lack of support at Pop, the album was a major success becoming his third to reach double-platinum status.

ReduxReview:  In general, this was a pleasant ballad nicely performed by Vandross and Hines. Would I list it among Vandross' best works? Nope, but I certainly don't mind listening to it. I realize that Vandross was giving a kickstart to Hines' recording career and it certainly worked with the song hitting #1 at R&B, but I'm not sure the tune was a good candidate for a duet. It just seemed kind of split up (you sing these lines, I'll sing these and we meet at the chorus). Because of that, there was little interaction between the vocalists, which is what makes duets interesting. Hines was a capable vocalist, but his voice didn't have that special something to make it memorable, like Vandross'.  All-in-all, a good effort, but not among my faves from Luther.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Vandross shared the spotlight with entertainer Gregory Hines on this song. Hines' popularity was soaring at the time. The influential tap dancer had already been nominated for three Tony awards and two Emmys, and had co-starred in two successful films, White Nights and Running Scared. It seemed he could do it all so the natural next step was to take a stab at a recording career. Apparently, Hines had previously tried to get a recording deal, but he was rejected by labels who saw him as a tap dancer/Broadway showman rather than a modern, commercial recording artist. That changed when Vandross happened to catch a TV appearance Hines had done. Vandross saw something the labels hadn't and reached out to see if Hines wanted to work with him. The two got together and this single became Hines' introduction as a recording artist. This would later be followed by a self-titled 1988 debut solo LP that was all produced and co-written by Vandross. The album's first single, "That Girl Wants to Dance with Me," became a #6 hit at R&B, but it didn't reach the Pop chart. A second single was a very minor entry at R&B. Despite the hit, it seemed like it was a one-n-done for Hines and he moved on to other work including his Tony-winning performance in 1992's Jelly's Last Jam. It should be noted that this was not Hines' first foray into singing or recording music. In 1968, he recorded an album titled Pandemonium with his brother and his dad for Columbia Records. It was credited to Hines, Hines & Dad. The trio had been together for a few years working the clubs. Later in the 70s, Hines became the lead singer of a rock/funk band named Severance. They recorded a self-titled debut LP in 1976.


Sunday, February 23, 2020

"Do Ya, Do Ya (Wanna Please Me)" by Samantha Fox

Song#:  3052
Date:  03/14/1987
Debut:  98
Peak:  87
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  British singer/model Fox grabbed her first big US hit with the #4 "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)." The success of that single helped get her debut album Touch Me to #24. A follow-up single was certainly in order and this track was selected for release. Unfortunately, it didn't catch on as well and it failed to get out of the basement of the Pop chart. After a little over a month, the song disappeared. Following those results, it was decided that a third single from the LP would not be issued out in the US.

ReduxReview:  This song featured another suggestive title, but it wasn't anything like "Touch Me." Instead of keeping things going in the dance-pop vein, Fox moved into synth rock territory for this one. It nearly comes off like a female-fronted Billy Idol recording. It actually works pretty well. It's an urgent track with some rockin' guitar work and a surprisingly effective vocal from Fox. She probably could have pulled off a hard rock album. Oddly, this is the only real rock track on the album so it seemed a bit out of place. Why it was selected as a single is anyone's guess. It worked out in a few markets, but in the US she was introduced as a dance-pop diva and this change of pace wasn't what folks were looking for. Still, it was an interesting track that highlighted Fox quite well.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  While this song wouldn't do well in the US, it became a second Top 10 hit for Fox in the UK. The tune made it to #10. It also reached the Top 10 in several other countries and even hit #1 in Sweden. Because of that, a third single was pushed out. "Hold on Tight" (not a remake of the ELO hit) was released, but it didn't fare as well. It got to #26 in the UK. Still, a fourth single was called for and "I'm All You Need" was selected. It got to #41 in the UK. The singles kept album sales going and after peaking at #17, the LP would be certified silver (60,000 units) in the UK.