Saturday, April 25, 2020

"Only in My Dreams" by Debbie Gibson

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3114
Date:  05/09/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  4
Weeks:  28
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Teen Pop

Pop Bits:  This Brooklyn-born singer/songwriter learned music at an early age and began writing and recording songs in her early teens. By the time she was sixteen, she was performing her songs in clubs at night while still attending high school. With her mother managing her career, Gibson continued to write song and record demos one of which ended up over at Atlantic Records. Based on the demo of this song, the label decided to take a chance on the teen. They hooked her up with producer Fred Zarr and the pair formally recorded the tune. It was initially released as a 12" single, but after it started to get attention, Atlantic pushed it out as a 45. The song took a long, slow climb up the Pop chart until finally reaching #4 in its eighteenth week (#12 Dance/#31 AC). The lengthy climb combined with the fact that the album hadn't been released yet pushed sales of the single to gold level. Gibson's debut album Only in My Dreams would finally be released just prior to the single's peak on the chart. She would also celebrate her seventeenth birthday around the same time. The LP would eventually reach #7 and become a triple platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  I'm sure Madonna was an influence on the teen and when this song was released some Madonna-wannabe comparisons were bantered about. I remember someone dubbing her the "innocent Madonna." However, I never put her in the same category as some of the other Madonna clones that were popping up on the chart. There was something different about her. She composed all of her song and had a knack for writing hooky, age-appropriate tunes in addition to having the ability to produce them as well. She didn't pass herself off as a dancer/singer who was just doing it to become a star. I think she had higher ambitions and approached it all with a maturity that most teens didn't possess. This song really typified that. It was a smart, well-written pop tune that really showcased what she was all about. Zarr's production was spot-on for the song and for the time period as well. People then and now kind of poke a little fun at Gibson and her hits, but my guess is that a song like this is a guilty pleasure that they won't admit to liking. It's not a guilty pleasure for me. I liked the damn song and I still do. It's a terrific late-80s career maker that stood on its own and was far better than any of the tunes from the so-called Madonna clones.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Gibson started writing songs at an early age. She wrote her first song "Know Your Classroom" at the age of six. As a pre-teen, she even composed an "opera" of sorts titled Alice in Operaland. While her parents were supportive and helped her along, even building a makeshift studio in their garage, it wasn't until she won a $1000 prize in a songwriting contest with her tune "I Come from America" that they thought she might have a viable career in music and began more serious support efforts. By the time she was sixteen, Gibson had a contract with a major label and her first hit was climbing the Pop chart.


Friday, April 24, 2020

"Man Against the World" by Survivor

Song#:  3113
Date:  05/09/1987
Debut:  94
Peak:  86
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's second single from their LP When Seconds Count, "How Much Love," didn't perform as well as expected topping out at a tepid #51. For the third single, the band pushed out this power ballad. They had luck with one from their previous album when "The Search Is Over" got to #4 Pop and #1 AC, but this time around it wasn't meant to be. The song barely dented the Pop chart and then disappeared after a few weeks. It was unable to crack the AC chart. It would be nearly a year and a half before the band could get back on the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Just like "How Much Love," this was another well-done song that was a shade too similar to a previous hit from the band. While it wasn't necessarily a repeat of "The Search Is Over," it was almost like they tried to create another ballad hit based on the previous song's formula. Other songs from the album played the same way as well. It was almost as if they decided to take everything that worked on their previous album Vital Signs and rehashed it for the next LP. Unfortunately, it all sounded a little been-there-heard-that. Granted, I will say that I kind of like the When Seconds Count album. It is full of sweet, hooky pop/rock tracks that are easy to digest. The problem is that in the end they are just not satisfying or filling and they burn off of your mind rather quickly leaving you hungry for something more substantial.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Along with their big #2 hit "Burning Heart," this song was written for use in the blockbuster film Rocky IV. Unfortunately, the portion of the movie that featured the tune ended up on the cutting room floor. Therefore, the song was not including on the platinum-selling soundtrack album. The omission allowed Survivor to use the track for their When Seconds Count album. In 2006, the Rocky IV soundtrack LP got the reissue treatment and it included "Man Against the World" as a bonus track.


Thursday, April 23, 2020

"Soul City" by The Partland Brothers

Song#:  3112
Date:  05/02/1987
Debut:  77
Peak:  27
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This Canadian duo was made up of brothers Chris and G.P. Partland. In 1979, the pair made a move from their small town to Toronto in search of a career in music. Once they got set up, they formed the band Oliver Heavyside. The group quickly gained a following and became a popular attraction on the club circuit. In 1982, they entered the annual "Homegrown" music contest put on by Toronto rock station Q107. They eventually won with their song "Level Crossing." (Side note: the winners of the 1983 contest were Honeymoon Suite with "New Girl Now.") The win made the band even more popular, but it seemingly didn't parlay into a major label contract. After Oliver Heavyside fizzled out, the brothers decided it was time to be on their own. By 1985, a demo tape of theirs made it to Capitol Records and the duo was signed. Work began on a debut album that was eventually titled Electric Honey. This first single was released and it ended up in the Canadian Top 30. Manhattan Records would then pick up the album and push out this single in the US. It would also crack the Top 30, which allowed the album to make a minor appearance at #146. The duo would end up receiving a Juno nomination for Most Promising New Group. In the US, this would be the duo's only charting single.

ReduxReview:  This is a track that I had certainly forgotten. It took a minute for me to remember the song, but once the chorus came in and I heard the line "and we won't be back 'til the money's all gone," it clicked in my mind. It's a well-written tune with nice harmonies and pretty good production that featured some minor 80s flourishes tossed in to keep it (at the time) current. It's a little gem of a song that has gotten lost over the years.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Following their first album, the brothers began to have issues with their management. This happens to some artists when they experience a sudden burst of fame. Newfound popularity can bring up problems with the artist, label, management, etc. and it seems The Partland Brothers got caught up in some business wranglings that delayed the recording of their second album. When the dust settled, they released their second effort, Between Worlds, in 1990. It was only issued in Canada with one single, "Honest Man," making the Top 30. The results got them left off the Capitol roster. They returned with an indie album in 1993 that generated a minor Top 40 single. After that, the brothers more or less went their own ways. They would perform and record on occasion over the years.


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

"Meet El Presidente" by Duran Duran

Song#:  3111
Date:  05/02/1987
Debut:  86
Peak:  70
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's fourth studio album, Notorious, started off well with the #2 title track. Unfortunately, its follow-up, "Skin Trade," failed to make an impression and stalled just inside the Top 40. They decided to give it another shot with this third single, but the results were even worse. The tune floated around the bottom of the Pop chart for just over a month before disappearing. The lack of a better supporting single following "Notorious" had an effect on the album's performance. It would be their first album to not reach the Top 10 (#12) and after four straight double-platinum LPs, it could only manage a platinum showing. Definitely not a bad showing, but it signaled a decline in the band's popularity.

ReduxReview:  This song was different for Duran Duran. It took some of their new wave funkiness and colored it with some Motown flare. It even had a horn section and a background vocal group. Frankly, the chorus sounds quite Wham!-ish to me. It was an interesting experiment and I think the chorus is the strongest section. Other portions are a bit flat and nearly bring the song to a halt. They certainly could have used a better title - something catchier and more memorable would have helped. I read somewhere that the band though this was a surefire hit and was really disappointed by its chart performance not only in the US, but even in the UK where it halted at #24. It's not a bad song and it should have probably done better in the US even though it wasn't in the same league as their other big hits.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Apparently, the band later dubbed Notorious as their Hitchcock album. This was because three of the songs had titles in common with Alfred Hitchcock movies. The title track was the same as Hitchcock's 1946 spy-noir film Notorious that starred Carey Grant and Ingrid Bergman. It was a critical and box office success. Also sharing a title was the song "Vertigo (Do the Demolition)." Hitchcock's 1958 psychological thriller Vertigo starring James Stewart and Kim Novak did fine at the box office, but received a mixed critical reaction at the time. However, the film grew in stature over time and would later be hailed by some as the director's best effort. Another Duran Duran track was initially titled "Rope." This was in reference to the 1948 experimental Hitchcock film of the same name that starred James Stewart. Based on a stage play, Hitchcock filmed long, extended scenes and edited them together in clever ways so that it appeared like the film was shot in real time in one long take. The experiment wasn't a hit with critics or with audiences when first released, but it later became a bit of a cult favorite within Hitchcock's catalog. Duran Duran's "Rope" would end up getting a title change to "Hold Me" prior to being included on the album.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

"Rock the Night" by Europe

Song#:  3110
Date:  05/02/1987
Debut:  87
Peak:  30
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Glam Rock, Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  The glam band from Sweden scored a worldwide hit with the title track to their third album The Final Countdown. It would reach #1 in many countries while making to #8 in the US. For a follow-up, this rockin' track was selected. While it would make the Top 10 in several countries, it didn't do that well in the US. It just nicked the Pop Top 30 while only getting to #22 at Rock. The results were a bit disappointing, but the band would rally back in a big way with the LP's third single..

ReduxReview:  Well, this certainly isn't "Final Countdown, Pt. 2." It doesn't have a lot in common with that synth-driven hit. This track kind of treads a line between Foreigner and Ratt. It's an arena ready track with a hooky chorus. It's a pretty good tune, but it lacks the fun, off-the-wall factor that make "Final Countdown" a hit. The single did better than what I thought it would on the chart. Still, I'm not sure why they chose this as the second single over the obvious hit "Carrie." Lucky for them that song was strong enough to overcome the tepid results of this track.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was written by lead singer Joey Tempest. The band began including the song in their concert set lists sometime in '84. The following year, the band was featured in a Swedish fictional film short titled On the Loose. The original version of this song was used in the film along with two other Europe songs. All three tunes would be included on an EP soundtrack album put out by the band. "Rock the Night" would be released as a single in Sweden in 1985 and it would reach #4. The band would then re-record "Rock the Night" and "On the Loose" for their third album The Final Countdown. The new version of "Rock the Night" would then serve as the second single from the LP.


Monday, April 20, 2020

"Something So Strong" by Crowded House

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3109
Date:  05/02/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  7
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  The Aussie/New Zealand band cracked the US Top 10 with "Don't Dream It's Over," a single from their self-titled debut album. The tune would reach #2 at Pop while getting to #9 AC and #11 Pop. For a follow-up, this next track would be selected. It would be another winner hitting #7 Pop, #10 Rock, and #13 AC. It would keep sales of the album brisk and eventually it would be a platinum seller that made it to #12.

ReduxReview:  This jangly tune was the perfect antithesis to the balladry of "Don't Dream It's Over." The songs provided a solid 1-2 punch from the band. At the time I even liked this song better than their first hit and it led me to purchasing the album. The hooky sing-a-long chorus was memorable and Mitchell Froom's production gave it a timeless feel. The track is still just as strong (so to speak) today as it was back then.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Lead singer/songwriter Neil Finn was previously in his brother Tim's band Split Endz. Neil joined up with that band in 1976. While Split Endz was very successful at home in Australia and in New Zealand, they were relegated to being more of a cult band in other countries such as the US. The band would end up with only one song reaching the US Pop chart, 1980's #53 "I Got You." Tim would decide to leave Split Endz in 1984 and that left Neil in charge. The band forged ahead and made the 1984 album See Ya 'Round. It was thought that "Something So Strong," written by Neil, was first demoed during the sessions for that album, but was set aside and not used. It would later be revisited and revised by Neil along with producer Mitchell Froom for the Crowded House debut album. The first single from the Split Ends LP See Ya 'Round, "I Walk Away," would make it to #13 in New Zealand and #45 in Australia. By the end of '84, the band decided to call it quits. Neil would go on to form Crowded House. His brother Tim would join up with them later in 1990. When the debut album by Crowded House was being prepped for international release to places like the US, one of the tracks from the original Australian/New Zealand version, "Can't Carry On," was dropped from the LP. It was replaced by a newly recorded version of the Split Endz track "I Walk Away."


Sunday, April 19, 2020

"I'd Still Say Yes" by Klymaxx

Song#:  3108
Date:  05/02/1987
Debut:  89
Peak:  18
Weeks:  20
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  This all-female R&B band finally broke through in a more mainstream way when their ballad "I Miss You" got to #5 at Pop (#3 AC/#11 R&B). The hit helped their fourth album, Meeting in the Ladies Room, become a gold seller. Afterwards, the band retreated back to the studio with various producers to come up with their self-titled follow-up album. The effort had an early preview with the track "Man Size Love" (#15 Pop/#43 R&B) which was also featured in the film Running Scared. The follow-up single, "Sexy," was a more funk-leaning track that got to #18 at R&B, but failed to hit the Pop chart. However, this third single did much better going Top 10 at R&B (#7) and AC (#8) while reaching the Pop Top 20. Unfortunately, the hit didn't do much to boost sales of the album, which only got to #25 at R&B while barely cracking the Pop 100 (#98). The band would break up in 1989, but after some legal wrangling concerning the name, an iteration of the band returned with 1990's The Maxx Is Back. It featured the #4 R&B track "Good Love," but it failed to generate any other significant hits. An indie album in 1994 tanked and that ended the band's recording career.

ReduxReview:  This pop ballad format worked well the first time around, so why not again? Just like "I Miss You," it's a pretty, sentimental ballad that played well on the radio. The addition of Howard Hewitt on backing vocals gave it a little boost while Joyce "Fenderella" Irby's vocals sounded like the love child of El DeBarge and Michael Jackson (Irby also co-wrote and produced the track). The issue is that it sounded like a lesser version of "I Miss You" and we didn't necessarily need a second one. The band had talent and might have gone further, but it seems like once they hit their stride they fell apart. It happens.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The band's founder, Bernadette Cooper, wrote and produced a lot of Klymaxx's material. Their success allowed her to work with other artists including developing a female vocal trio called Madame X. Cooper co-wrote and produced their 1987 #4 R&B/#7 Dance hit "Just That Type of Girl." Cooper would later embark on a solo career. She signed with MCA and issued out 1990's Drama According to Bernadette Cooper. It featured two minor R&B entries including the #30 "I Look Good."