Saturday, March 7, 2020

"La Isla Bonita" by Madonna

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3065
Date:  03/21/1987
Debut:  49
Peak:  4
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Latin Pop

Pop Bits:  By this point, Madonna's third album, True Blue, had generated four Top 10 hits, which matched the successful output from her previous LP Like a Virgin. The label could have called it a day and wrapped up the album's run, but this was Madonna, who liked to push boundaries. So they rolled the dice and issued out this fifth single. It ended up being a wise move. It became her second #1 at AC while extending her streak of consecutive Pop Top 10s to twelve. With other Madonna projects on the horizon, this tune ended the run of singles from True Blue. The LP had already been certified 4x platinum in February of '87. Eight years later, it would reach the 7x platinum mark. It currently remains her second biggest selling studio album of her career following the diamond (10+ million) Like a Virgin.

ReduxReview:  I admit that I did not hear this as a hit. I didn't think the Spanish influenced track would play well on Pop radio and I didn't think it was all that strong of a song. I was obviously wrong. I think what helped it along was that it was a mature outing with a different sound that attracted a wider audience. The AC audience and radio certainly gave this tune a boost and the associated MTV video proved to be another hit. In retrospect the tune sounds better to me now, but it still wouldn't rank alongside my favorite Madonna tracks.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was originally written by producer/composer Patrick Leonard. He had intended the song for Michael Jackson and had presented a version of it to the King of Pop. Unfortunately (or fortunately), Jackson didn't like the tune and rejected it. When Leonard began to work with Madonna on the True Blue album, he brought along the song. Madonna thought there was something there and she reworked it to her liking. Songwriter Bruce Gaitsch also lent a hand along the way and received a credit along with Madonna. Jackson's decline ended up giving Madonna another Top 10 hit.

Friday, March 6, 2020

"With or Without You" by U2

#1 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  3064
Date:  03/21/1987
Debut:  64
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks: 18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Prior to this, U2 had been inching closer and closer to being worldwide stars. While they had success in many countries including the US where their fourth LP The Unforgettable Fire was a #12 platinum seller, they had yet to break through in a bigger way. That all changed when they released their fifth LP, The Joshua Tree. The band retained Unforgettable producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, but instead of the more loose and experimental tracks of that album, they chose to create tighter rock songs bathed in cinematic atmospherics. This first single certainly demonstrated the new approach and it was heartily greeted by listeners who made it the band's first worldwide smash hit. It would definitely be their breakthrough in the States where the song made it to #1 and stayed for three weeks. It also hit #1 at Rock and #23 AC. The album was an immediate success debuting in the Top 10 (a rare occurrence at the time) and then topped the chart for nine consecutive weeks. A year later, the LP would earn U2 two Grammys, one for Album of the Year and one for Best Rock Performance, Duo or Group. They quickly went from a solid selling, well-respected band to worldwide superstars.

ReduxReview:  Prior to this song and album, I liked U2 and owned a couple of their albums including War and The Unforgettable Fire. Plus an EP called Wide Awake in America that had a brilliant live version of the Fire track "Bad." I wasn't a huge fan yet, but I could tell that they were on to something. Then this song came out. I was bowled over. That quiet, atmospheric beginning signaled something special and it grew from there. By the time it hit the refrain and Bono started howling, I about lost my shit. It was like one of those musical religious experiences. I just thought it was one of the best songs I'd heard in ages. And although it got played to death, it was one song that I didn't tire of hearing. I still absolutely love it and I still get chills sometimes when I hear the beginning of the song. From this point on, I was a certified U2 FFL (fan for life).


Trivia:  The video for this song, co-directed by Meiert Avis and Matt Mahurin, was also a hit on MTV. The abstract-style video would go on to be nominated for seven MTV Music Video Awards including Video of the Year. That was the same year that Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" dominated with ten nominations. Gabriel's video won nine of the categories. The only one it didn't win was the Viewer's Choice award. That one went to U2 for this song's video. Also, in the video you see shots of a woman interspersed with the band. That person was dancer Morleigh Steinberg. She would later work with the band again on their 1992 Zoo TV tour as choreographer and dancer. She and recently separated U2 guitarist The Edge struck up a friendship during the tour. Afterwards, they became a couple and had two children. They were married in 2002.


Thursday, March 5, 2020

"Brass Monkey" by Beastie Boys

Song#:  3063
Date:  03/21/1987
Debut:  77
Peak:  48
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  The Beastie Boys made history when their debut album, License to Ill, became the first rap album to reach #1 on the Pop Album chart. That was mainly due to the success of their single, the #7 "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)." To follow up that hit, this track was selected for single release. It didn't do nearly as well missing out on the Pop Top 40 while barely making the R&B chart (#83). In the end, the single's performance didn't really matter as the following month, the album would be certified triple-platinum. In March of 2015, it would receive a diamond certification (10+ million copies sold). Oddly, years later in 2006, "Brass Monkey" would receive a gold certification for sales.

ReduxReview:  A song about a cocktail? What's not to like? That squawkin' sax sample (see below) certainly made this track memorable. This was quite different from the rock-rap of "Fight for Your Right," but it worked just as well. I don't think it was what Pop radio was looking for, but it ended up doing pretty good for a more straight-up rap song on the Pop chart. I was always surprised they didn't choose "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" instead. That track seemed like a natural follow-up to "Fight" with its rock sound, but perhaps they didn't want to be known as that rap-rock group and wanted to get out something more akin to their original sound. Still, it was a fun, catchy track from the group.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song is basically an ode to a premixed bottled cocktail called Brass Monkey. It was made by the Heublein Company and started to get distributed in 1971. It was a cocktail made from rum, vodka, and orange juice. For their first ad campaign for the product, Heublein made up a tall tale that the drink's origins came from bar where a World War II smuggling operation had taken place. It sounded so plausible that may folks believed it. The product came at a time when beer, wine, and hard liquor were the staples and bottles of premixed cocktails were not the norm. Still, steady sales kept the product active through the 70s and 80s, and when this song came out, sales jumped. It faded out in the 90s. There was also another drink called the Brass Monkey that consisted of drinking a part of a 40 ounce bottle of malt liquor and then replacing it with orange juice. However, this wasn't the one the Beastie Boys were rapping about. In an interview, Beastie Mike D mentioned that they were referencing the premixed bottled cocktail.  2) The wanky sax is part of what makes this song memorable. It is actually a sample of an obscure dance song from 1981. The female soul vocal trio Wild Sugar recorded a single that included the songs "Messin' Around" and "Bring It Here." The sax part heard in the Beastie's track is what opens "Bring It Here." Wild Sugar was apparently an off-shoot group from the funk/disco outfit The Fatback Band. Led by Bill Curtis, The Fatback band had a string of R&B chart entries throughout the 70s and 80s including three Top 10s. They were never able to cross over to the Pop chart. Wild Sugar was created from the background vocalists used by The Fatback Band. Bill Curtis co-wrote and co-produced the trio's only single. It didn't chart. However, someone in the Beastie's camp discovered the track and used the funky sax part for "Brass Monkey."


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

"If She Would Have Been Faithful..." by Chicago

Song#:  3062
Date:  03/21/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  17
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  This band's Chicago 18 album nearly tanked, but it got revived by its second single, "Will You Still Love Me," which got to #2 AC/#3 Pop. Realizing that their bread 'n' butter at the time was power ballads, the band kept along those lines with the release of this third single. It would win over the AC crowd getting to #9 on that chart. At Pop it wasn't quite as successful only cracking the Top 20. Still, the hits helped the album sell well enough to reach platinum status.

ReduxReview:  Like their previous single, this was a nice song, but it didn't bring anything new to the table that the band hadn't already dished out. It was just another entry in their line of power ballad hits that featured a massive production by David Foster. While it contained some interesting compositional choices and was a better song than "Will You Still Love Me," it was still just another steroidal Chicago ballad trying to muscle its way up the charts.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Steve Kipner and Randy Goodrum. Kipner's career as a songwriter really kicked in when Olivia Newton-John recorded "Physical," a song he co-wrote with Terry Shaddick. That 1981 song would spend ten weeks atop the Pop chart. He would go on to write several other major hits including Christina Aguilera's #1 debut single, 1999's "Genie in a Bottle." But like many for-hire songwriters, Kipner spent time trying to make it as a recording artist. Born in Ohio, but raised in Australia, Kipner's band Steve & the Board scored a hit there in 1966 with "The Giggly-Eyed Goo," a song written and produced by Kipner's father, Nat. The band broke up the following year, but then Kipner had bigger success as a member of the band Tin Tin. Their 1970 single "Toast and Marmalade for Tea" made it to #10 in Australia and #20 in the US. Once again, the band was short-lived and broke up a couple years later. He made a move to the US and was in three bands that all got signed to major labels and recorded albums, but nothing came from them. He even released a solo LP in 1979 to little notice. Luckly his compositions got noticed and a new career as a pro songwriter began. One of the more interesting songs from Kipner's early career came during the sessions for Tin Tin's self-titled debut album, which was produced by Bee Gee Maurice Gibb. At one session, they happened to be recording a song called "Have You Heard the Word." That day, Gibb had fallen and shown up to the studio with an arm cast. He was also on painkillers. A little booze in the studio added to his day. The band wasn't happy with the song and left the studio. The feeling-no-pain Gibb stayed behind and decided to finish it off playing bass and doing vocals that mimicked John Lennon's. Somehow, the recording got released as a single in 1970 as by The Fut. Not long after it got out, rumors started that it might possibly be a bootleg recording of The Beatles, thanks in part to Gibbs' impersonation. One person who thought it was real was Yoko Ono. After John Lennon's death, she discovered the song and thought it was a Lennon track and tried to copyright it. She discovered later it was just a Gibb brother doing his best Lennon voice.


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

"Fascinated" by Company B

Song#:  3061
Date:  03/21/1987
Debut:  92
Peak:  21
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Dance, Latin Freestyle, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  This Miami-based vocal trio was formed by producer Ish Ledesma. Seeing how the Latin freestyle sound was starting to gain popularity through various female vocal groups, Ledesma thought he might give it a whirl. He formed a trio that featured his wife Lori (billed as Lori L.) along with Charlotte McKinnon and Susan Johnson. The group went into the studio and recorded a couple of songs including "Fascinated." It was independently released and quickly spread to various clubs along with local Miami radio stations. Its popularity caught the attention of Atlantic Records who picked it up and got it released nationally. The tune gained steam in the clubs and it rose on the Dance chart until peaking at #1 at the beginning of March. A couple weeks later, the song debuted on the Pop chart. It ended up doing well just missing out on the Top 20. The results prompted Atlantic to ask for an album and Ledesma and the trio (now minus McKinnon, replaced by Lezlee Livrano) supplied a self-titled effort. Three tracks from the album would do well on the Dance chart (two Top 10s, one #12), but none of them reached the Pop chart. The album topped out at a minor #143. Still, the results called for a second album and the trio (now consisting of Lisa L., Donna Huntley, and Julie Marie) pushed out Gotta Dance in 1989. The LP, which leaned more towards house music, couldn't find an audience and it disappeared quickly with no singles charting. The results got them dropped from Atlantic. This song remains their only one to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Here we go again. Another Latin freestyle assembled female vocal group. All of a sudden this was the rage and folks were trying to cash in on the sound. It worked for Company B, but their success was short-lived. This track was a pretty good entry into the freestyle race. The chorus is catchy and the lead vocals, although a bit shrill, seemed to showcase someone who could actually sing. The production is on the weak side, but not too bad for an indie recording. It is certainly a product of its era.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) While this song gave Ish Ledesma a hit as a songwriter and producer, he was not a stranger to the charts as a performer. In 1976, Ledesma formed the R&B/Disco band Foxy. Their second album, 1978's Get Off featured the #1 R&B/#9 Pop title track. A third album included the #4 R&B/#21 Pop hit "Hot Number." As disco died, so did the band. Next up was a solo album under just his first name Ish, but it didn't do much of anything. After that, Ledesma formed a band called OXO. The new wave-styled group scored a #28 Pop entry with "Whirly Girl" in 1983.  2) The trio's name was taken from an old pop standard. In the tune "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," made famous in 1941 by The Andrews Sisters, it says the bugle boy was from Company B. The trio Company B actually did an updated version of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" for their second album Gotta Dance.


Monday, March 2, 2020

"World Shut Your Mouth" by Julian Cope

Song#:  3060
Date:  03/21/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  84
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This multifaceted UK artist has had a complicated life and career. As a musician, he began playing in various bands starting in the mid-70s. He got his first taste of success with his psych-rock band The Teardrop Explodes. They released two successful albums in the UK in '80 and '81 and even grabbed a Top 10 hit titled "Reward" (#6 UK). They broke up before a third album could get released. Cope then went out on his own and signed with Mercury Records. His debut solo disc, World Shut Your Mouth, came out in '84 and did fairly well, but a second LP faltered and he was dropped by the label. Cope then signed on with Island Records and recorded his third album Saint Julian, which pushed Cope into a more straight-ahead rock sound. This song, which was not a track on his debut LP of the same name, was issued out as a single and it caught on reaching #19 in the UK. The tune then crossed over to the States where it picked up some airplay and got to #22 on the Rock chart. It also made the Pop chart for a short month. Both the single and the album (#11 UK/#105 US) would be his best charting efforts on both sides of the pond. After a somewhat successful follow-up album, Cope wanted his music to make a more artistic statement rather than be driven by what the label wanted. This obviously led to a tumultuous relationship with Island that ended in 1992. After a stint with Echo Records, Cope then just decided to ditch the mainstream and formed his own label/website Head Heritage. He has been releasing works on the label since 1997.

ReduxReview:  This is a terrific rave rocker that I had kind of forgotten about. The tune had a 60s rock influence along the lines of The Kinks and it featured a memorable chorus. Producer Ed Stasium (The Ramones, The Smithereens) put a crunchy sheen on the track that took it to the next level. It showed that if he wanted to, Cope could create solid tracks with mainstream appeal. The problem was that Cope didn't want to do that. He wanted to be his own artist and not one owned and operated by labels, so his stint as a commercially viable artist was brief. That's not to say his later works were inaccessible, they just didn't contain contemporary radio-ready rock like this. Still, over the course of a couple of albums (Saint Julian and My Nation Underground), Cope bent to the whims of the music business and came out with a few gleaming gems like this song.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) While this song would be Cope's only one to reach the US Pop and Rock charts, he would end up with a few entries on the new Modern Rock chart. His follow-up to Saint Julian, My Nation Underground, featured the #1 Modern Rock hit "Charlotte Anne" and the #10 cover of The Vogues' 1966 #4 hit "Five O'Clock World." His 1991 album, the critically well-received Peggy Suicide, contained the #4 Modern Rock track "Beautiful Love."  2) Along with his music career, Cope has been a successful author. In addition to two autobiographies, Cope has written music commentary books, a fiction novel, and two well respected non-fiction books on archaeology and antiquarianism.


Sunday, March 1, 2020

"Same Ole Love (365 Days a Year)" by Anita Baker

Song#:  3059
Date:  03/21/1987
Debut:  94
Peak:  44
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Baker's single "Caught Up in the Rapture" was the second released from her successful second LP Rapture. While it did well at R&B (#6) and AC (#9), it stalled just inside the Top 40 at Pop. Hoping to gain back some of the audience that sent her "Sweet Love" to #8 at Pop, this third single was released. Once again, R&B (#8) and AC (#6) welcomed the song with open arms. At Pop, the single didn't quite click and this time around it left Baker getting blocked out of the Top 40. Still, the song's success kept album sales going and by this point in time it was already certified at double-platinum. It would eventually sell over five million copies.

ReduxReview:  Easy...breezy...Baker. This is another quality tune from the Rapture album. I remember when I first heard the tune I didn't think it was single-worthy. But then after a couple of listens it started to sink in. I liked the way the relaxed, pop verse moved into the funkier chorus with Baker jamming the "365 days of the year" into a few beats. The song lagged in a few points so I think the arrangement could have been a little more interesting. Baker sometimes had a tendency to either mumble or slur her words together and she does that in this track, which can be annoying. Yet somehow it still worked. I'm not surprised it didn't do better at Pop. This was a more sophisticated track that was slightly funky with shades of contemporary jazz. It probably didn't play well on the radio sandwiched between Bon Jovi and Madonna.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Just prior to this song's release, Baker's Rapture album earned two Grammy awards. Before she could issue out her next LP, Baker would end up winning a third Grammy at the following year's award show. In 1987, she would join the gospel/R&B family quartet The Winans on their song "Ain't No Need to Worry." The song appeared on The Winans' fifth album Decisions and it would be released as a single. It did well at R&B reaching #15. The hit helped the album reach #1 at Gospel, #30 R&B, and #109 Pop, which was their first appearance on that chart. The song would go on to win The Winans and Baker a Grammy for Best Soul Gospel Performance, Duo or Group. The Winans family was from Detroit and in addition to the four brothers that made up The Winans, there were six other kids in the family. Some of them had success in music as well, particularly BeBe and CeCe Winans who worked together as a duo and also as solo artists. Both are multiple Grammy winners.