Saturday, March 14, 2020

"The Secret of My Success" by Night Ranger

Song#:  3072
Date:  03/28/1987
Debut:  86
Peak:  64
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Night Ranger had been on a roll with two platinum albums and five consecutive Top 20 hits that included two Top 10s. Along the way, a few of their songs were selected to appear on movie soundtracks, but most of those were previously released tracks. Following the success of their third LP 7 Wishes, the band got a chance to write and record the theme song to a new high-profile comedy titled The Secret to My Success starring Michael J. Fox. Apparently Fox was a fan of the band and had requested their participation. Producer David Foster was in charge of the film's music and the band began to work with him on the title track song. The timing was perfect as the band was finishing up their fourth LP Big Life. The completed theme song would then serve as the first single from that album as well as the soundtrack. The song did well at Rock reaching #12. Yet despite a good push from MTV on the song's video and the box office success of the film, the tune could only manage a couple of months in the bottom half of the Pop chart. With little to promote it, the soundtrack album stalled at a low #131. Night Ranger's album fared far better thanks to their popularity, but it stopped at #28 and only went gold, which was a drop from their previous platinum LPs. On the bright side, the song did get a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song.

ReduxReview:  Sadly, I think this song doomed Night Ranger. Although a rock band at heart, they had carved a spot for themselves on the chart doing big ballads and mid-tempo pop/rock tracks in the Journey/Survivor vein. Their tunes were well-written and catchy without being flashy. They could have easily surfed on that wave for a couple more albums and maybe grabbed some hits, but instead they took a chance on working with Foster for this song. I probably would have too, but the pairing was just not right. The tune itself was a bit of a mess with awkward transitions and the film's title being shoved in a weak chorus. Then on top of that was the bombastic kitchen sink production from Foster. This was obviously an attempt to try and recreate John Parr's soundtrack hit "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)," also co-written and produced by Foster, and it didn't work. Night Ranger got totally lost in the cacophony of it all and in the end it just looked like they were desperately reaching for a mainstream commercial hit. It seemed to turn off more people than it drew in and it halted their winning streak big time. It all went downhill so quickly after this that they just couldn't recover. I can't blame them for taking a chance on this tune and Foster, but it it turned out to be a costly experiment.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Michael J. Fox was a hot box office commodity at the time thanks to the hits Back to the Future and Teen Wolf. Even his dramatic turn in the music film Light of Day didn't do too bad. But comedy was his bread 'n' butter and only two months after the release of Light of Day his next big flick The Secret of My Success came out. Despite very mixed critical reviews, the film was a hit spending five weeks as the #1 box office draw and finishing as the seventh biggest grossing movie of 1987. However, the film's success didn't do much to boost Night Ranger's song or the soundtrack album.


Friday, March 13, 2020

"Just to See Her" by Smokey Robinson

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  3071
Date:  03/28/1987
Debut:  89
Peak:  8
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Robinson had a solo career peak moment in 1981 when his album Being with You went gold thanks to the #1 R&B/#2 Pop title track hit, which was also a gold seller. His follow-up albums were less successful as were his singles with only two songs making the R&B Top 10. It probably didn't help that at the time he was struggling with an addiction and in the process of divorcing his wife. It was a dark period for the legend. He started to get his life back in order in '86 and with a new outlook he headed back into the studio to record his sixteenth solo studio effort One Heartbeat. This first single was issued out and it was welcomed with open arms. The tune became a major hit reaching #1 at AC, #2 at R&B, and #8 Pop. In turn, the album would get to #1 R&B and #26 Pop. Eventually it would become the second gold album of his solo career.

ReduxReview:  This was just the perfect tune to get Robinson back in the marketplace. It fit him like a glove. Not since "Being with You" had he sounded so lively and engaged. The song itself was wonderfully written and with the exception of the keyboard solo, the production had a timeless quality. It was one of those songs that just filled you with a pleasant feeling. There was just no doubt that this was going to be a hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song earned Robinson his first Grammy award. He won for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male. The song received a nod for Best R&B Song for its writers Jimmy George and Lou Pardini. Prior to this, Robinson had two nominations to his credit. One for his 1979 solo performance of "Crusin'" and one with The Miracles for their 1967 hit "I Second That Emotion." Robinson would grab three more nominations over the years. He would also be honored with two more non-competitive Grammys, the Grammy Legends award and the Lifetime Achievement award.


Thursday, March 12, 2020

"You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon

Song#:  3070
Date:  03/28/1987
Debut:  92
Peak:  23
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, World

Pop Bits:  On the evening of February 24, 1987, Simon's Graceland won the Album of the Year honors at the Grammy awards ceremony. At that time, the third single from the album, "The Boy in the Bubble" was struggling at the bottom of the Pop chart. Luckily, this song, which had already been released as the LP's first single, started to regain some attention thanks to all the Grammy hoopla. It was enough to get the song back on the chart again. The single began a second run and boosted by the Grammy win and the popular video featuring Chevy Chase, it ended up doing better than its first run nearly cracking the Pop Top 20. The combined runs resulted in the song staying on the Pop chart for a total of twenty-nine weeks. The album rebounded to a new peak of #3 as well.

ReduxReview:  There's nothing I can add here that I didn't already cover in my original assessment of the song.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The song was considered a "Re-Entry" on the chart and not a new entry mainly because the original product was still available for sale. Therefore, most chart info sites/books will show a single stat for this song as twenty-nine weeks on the chart and peaking at #23. Had the single been reprinted with changes, say a new b-side or a new remixed version, then it would have been a different product and would have been considered a new entry. In this new digital age now, it is different. Most any song in its original charting version can re-enter the Pop chart since there is actually no physical singles available any longer. That's why you will see every December an influx of old holiday songs re-entering the chart. It also happens when a superstar artist passes away. A song can now come-n-go on the chart pretty much whenever its popularity soars via streaming and social media.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

"Dancin' with My Mirror" by Corey Hart

Song#:  3069
Date:  03/28/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  88
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Hart's first two albums each generated a Top 10 hit. His third album, Fields of Fire, had yet to achieve that after two attempts. Both singles would only make the Top 30 with "I Am By Your Side" doing the best at #18. Still in search of a better result, this third single was pushed out. Unfortunately, it was pretty much a non-starter spending a few minor weeks at the bottom of the Pop chart. Yet the two Top 30 singles generated enough interest in the album to make it go gold. It would be his last album to reach that sales level in the US.

ReduxReview:  This urgent, rock-leaning track was certainly different from the two ballads he had released from the album. It was more in-line with the synth rock/new wave sounds from his second album Boy in the Box. The tune also had a Rick Springfield feel. It wasn't too bad of a song, but it just wasn't right for the US pop audience. It was neither as hooky or fun as his #7 hit "Sunglasses At Night" and it didn't have the mainstream appeal of his big ballads. It was fine for an album track, but it wasn't going to get anywhere on the chart.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In his homeland of Canada, Hart's Fields of Fire album would generate five Top 40 entries including a #1 and another Top 10. When the singles were exhausted from that album, a one-off single was released in Canada titled "Too Good to Be Enough." It was kind of a promotional item with the single being packaged in a folded up poster. The song would get to #24 on the Canadian chart. There is a story that this song was originally supposed to be used for the soundtrack to the 1987 Eddie Murphy sequel Beverly Hills Cop II. Hart had fielded other offers to appear on soundtracks, but had previously balked because they wanted him to sing another composer's song and he preferred to sing his own tunes. It seems he finally decided to get involved in soundtracks when an opportunity for Beverly Hills Cop II came his way. Yet somehow this song (if indeed he did intend if for the film) was set aside and Hart was talked into recording a song called "Hold On" written by James Wirrick. Oddly, that song had already been recorded by another artist for use in the film. San Francisco singer Keta Bill originally recorded "Hold On" and her version was used in the Playboy Mansion scene of the movie. However, due to legal or other issues, her take would not be included on the soundtrack album and instead a new version of the song (nearly all rewritten) by Hart would be. Hart's take can briefly be heard in the film - just enough to get listed in the film's credits and to make it a valid as a part of the soundtrack album.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

"Living in a Dream" by Pseudo Echo

Song#:  3068
Date:  03/28/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  57
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Synth Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Formed by a couple of high school friends, this Australian band got a break when a demo recording of a song they did was featured on the popular music TV program Countdown. The buzz generated from it led to the band signing with EMI and a formal recording of their demo song "Listening" was released. It reached #4 on the Aussie chart. A full album titled Autumnal Park followed in the summer of '84 and reached #11. A second LP, Love an Adventure, came out in '85. It would be a platinum seller in Australia and spawn three Top 20 hits including a pair of Top 10s. With that success, it seemed like the right time to try and conquer other territories including the US. The Love an Adventure album was reconfigured for international release with RCA picking up the distribution for the US. This first single, which had hit #15 in Australia earlier in '86, was issued out. It got some minor attention reaching the Dance (#35), Rock (#44) and Pop (#57) charts. It didn't look too good for the band, but then a second single would boost their profile significantly.

ReduxReview:  This song strangely starts out like a ZZ Top track done by Duran Duran. I like the rock edge to it, but then it shifts into more of a dance-rock/new wave direction. It reminds me of fellow Aussie band The Models ("Out of Mind, Out of Sight," #37 Pop). I like the tune and it had enough hooks to make it memorable and a good single contender. It was just strange that this was selected as their first US single over their next one, a remake of "Funky Town," which had already hit #1 in Australia. Perhaps they wanted to try and establish their sound with an original rather than a cover tune. Whatever it was, it didn't work out. They were lucky that their remake was strong enough to overcome this slow start.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Back when synth keyboards and other newfangled electronic music gadgets came out, many had various "voices" and effects installed on them. There were standard sounds like piano, organ, woodwinds, strings, bass, etc. along with wacky stuff like birds, clapping, and helicopter sounds. There were also effects that could be used on the sounds such as reverb. Apparently, this Aussie band liked the name of one of the effects that was on their equipment so much that they adopted it as their moniker - Pseudo Echo.


Monday, March 9, 2020

"Battleship Chains" by Georgia Satellites

Song#:  3067
Date:  03/28/1987
Debut:  95
Peak:  86
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Southern Rock

Pop Bits:  This Atlanta band grabbed a surprise Top 10 hit with the #2 "Keep Your Hands to Yourself." The song was taken from their self-titled debut album that reached #5 and went platinum. For a follow up, this next track was selected. It did well at Rock reaching #11, but it couldn't find an audience at Pop and it stalled low on the chart. While not issued out as a single, the LP track "Railroad Steel" got enough airplay to reach #34 at Rock. The band would now have the difficult task of trying to follow up their successful debut.

ReduxReview:  This is another good rocker from the band that I liked, but it just didn't have that same groovy appeal as "Keep Your Hands to Yourself." That one was a sing-a-long crowd pleaser that had mainstream appeal. This one was a hooky country rock track that just wasn't quite as engaging. I thought it might have done a little better on the Pop chart, but I knew it wasn't going to be another major hit for them.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Terry Anderson for his North Carolina band The Woods. While that band would record the song for their 1987 debut LP, it seems that the Georgia Satellites picked up the tune and got it recorded and released first. Several artists would later cover this tune including an unexpected one by an R.E.M. offshoot project called Hindu Love Gods. In 1987, Warren Zevon got help from three-quarters of R.E.M. (Bill Berry, Mike Mills, and Peter Buck) in recording his album Sentimental Hygiene. During a session that turned into an all-nighter, Zevon and the R.E.M. trio recorded a bunch of cover tunes that were mainly blues standards. A couple of newer songs were tossed in including "Battleship Chains." The recordings weren't meant to be released, but in 1990 they were collected and issued out under the moniker of Hindu Love Gods. It didn't receive a lot of attention and stalled at #168 on the chart. This album wasn't the first recording released by the band. They had actually been performing on and off since 1984. On occasion, another musician, Bryan Cook, would also join in and with him the band recorded and released a single in 1986. The main song was, "Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight," a cover of The Easybeat's 1968 song "Good Times."


Sunday, March 8, 2020

"You Keep Me Hangin' On" by Kim Wilde

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3066
Date:  03/28/1987
Debut:  96
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  Wilde had a memorable hit in 1981 with the #25 "Kids in America," but then her follow-up efforts in the years following failed to chart with the lone exception of "Go for It" (#65), a track from her 1984 LP Teases & Dares. That album was her first to feature a few songs that she wrote (or co-wrote) and that gave her the confidence to dive in deeper for her next effort Another Step. Wilde would write/co-write eight of the album's twelve tracks, yet when it came time for a single, this cover tune was selected. The energetic track had already been a #2 hit in the UK by the time it debuted in the US. The song started out low on the chart, but steadily climbed until it hit the top spot. It would be Wilde's first and only US #1. It also got to #6 at Dance and #30 AC. The hit helped the album become her best effort in the US when it reached #40.

ReduxReview:  I really liked Wilde's Tease & Dares album, so I was looking forward to Another Step. When this song came out, I wasn't sure I liked it. The tune's synth pop combined with guitars was in line with her previous disc, but it turned a classic pleading Motown song full of emotion into something cold. It was like the soul was zapped from the tune. In turn, the album was not as good as I had hoped. While it had some highlights, it just didn't have that quirky Wilde family feel (her brother and father co-wrote and produced most of her previous albums). It felt like they were trying to rein it in and be more commercial. It worked in regards to this song, but it was a song familiar to many folks and the synthpop/dance spin helped to sell it. I just wasn't all that thrilled with it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by The Supremes. Their 1966 version would become the trio's eighth to top the Pop chart and fifth to hit #1 at R&B. The classic Motown track, written by the incomparable Holland-Dozier-Holland team, would be covered by many artists over the years. In addition to The Supremes and Wilde, three other artists would reach the Pop chart with their versions. Psychedelic rock band Vanilla Fudge initially charted in '67 with the tune and it got to #67. But a reissue of the song the following year caught on and it topped out at #6. Soul singer Wilson Pickett's take got to #92 (#16 R&B) in 1969. Then in 1970, singer Jackie DeShannon used the song in a medley alongside "Hurts So Bad." That single got to #96.  2) This song is one of only nine to have reached #1 on the Pop chart by two different artists. Of those nine, three of them, including this tune, happened to accomplish the feat within months of each other. Bananarama's "Venus," a remake of Shocking Blue's 1970 #1, hit the top spot on September 6, 1986. Then Club Nouveau's "Lean on Me," a cover of the Bill Withers hit, reached #1 on March 21, 1987. Wilde's cover would get to the top on June 6, 1987, eight months after Bananarama's cover tune got to #1. This feat would not happen again until 1991 when Michael Bolton reached #1 with Percy Sledge's chart topper "When a Man Loves a Woman."