Saturday, May 2, 2020

"Little Suzi" by Tesla

Song#:  3121
Date:  05/16/1987
Debut:  95
Peak:  91
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  The roots of this band from Sacramento, California, began in 1981 when Brian Wheat and Frank Hannon were in a band called Earthshaker. The following year they put together a new outfit called City Kidd and over the next few years they developed their songwriting skills while gaining a following in the clubs. By 1984, the group had a steady lineup and after a couple of L.A. showcase performances, Geffen Records came calling. The band was signed and work began on their debut album. The only sticking point was their name - City Kidd. Their management thought it was an awful name and suggested a change. The band settled on Tesla, which was a reference to the inventor Nikola Tesla. After the LP Mechanical Resonance was completed, the first song serviced to radio was "Modern Day Cowboy." The rockin' track didn't make a big impression, but it did appear on the Rock chart at #35. Next up was this track. The tune was a bit more radio friendly and it did better reaching #22 at Rock. The attention there prompted an official single release and the song ended up on the Pop chart for just a minor few weeks. Despite the song's results, it was enough to promote the band and the album finished well reaching #32. It would even reach gold-level sales by the fall. It would eventually go platinum after the band broke through in a bigger way with their second LP.

ReduxReview:  Sometimes songs were just meant to get to a wider audience. The original version of this tune (see below) was actually a pretty cool new wave track that surprisingly got ignored. Thanks to an updated rock take by Tesla, the song got a new lease on life. I think this track was popular in my local area as I remember hearing it quite a bit on the radio. It's too bad it didn't get further on either the Rock or Pop chart. It did okay, but it was good enough to make a better impression. However, it helped the band's album go gold, so I think it did better than what the chart positions may have suggested and it led them to getting a pair of Top 10's later on.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the British new wave band Ph.D. under the title "Little Suzi's on the Up." The 1981 track was the band's first single from their self-titled debut album. It failed to chart, but its follow-up "I Won't Let You Down" was a major hit reaching #3 in the UK and hitting #1 in a few other countries (the song and album were released in the US, but neither charted). The band's name was a take on the last names of its three members, Simon Phillips, Tony Hymas, and lead singer Jim Diamond (who sounded a lot like Simply Red's Mick Hucknall, especially on some of their other tracks) arranged as a sort of take on the university degree. The band would end up being a one-hit wonder with none of their other singles hitting the UK chart. A second album failed to do anything and the band split. Jim Diamond had a little better luck as a solo artist. He signed with A&M and his 1984 self-titled album contained the #1 UK hit "I Should Have Known Better" (an original written by Diamond and Graham Lyle, not the Beatles hit). His second album earned him a #5 single with "Hi Ho Silver," which served as the theme song to the British crime drama series Boon.  2) So how did an obscure non-charting song from a UK artist get to a US hard rock band? While not fully known how Tesla learned of the track, one guess is that it could have been due to the attention the song got on MTV. The day MTV first began (August 1, 1981), Ph.D.'s "Little Suzi's on the Up" was the fifth video played. Since there wasn't a whole lot of music videos around at the time, the song ended up getting quite a bit if airplay. Anyone who watched MTV in those beginning days most certainly would have remember the track.


Friday, May 1, 2020

"Point of No Return" by Exposé

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3120
Date:  05/09/1987
Debut:  68
Peak:  5
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Freestyle, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This Miami-based vocal trio made a splash with the #5 "Come Go with Me," a single from their debut album Exposure. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. It would do equally as well reaching #5 on the Pop chart. The album would hit its initial peak of #23 not long after the release of this song and the hit would help it maintain a steady Top 40 presence throughout the summer.

ReduxReview:  This one followed directly in the footsteps of "Come Go with Me" and even reached the same peak. It was an equally good song and in some ways there were things about it I preferred over the first hit. Sometimes having two songs in the same format with the same feel released as consecutive singles doesn't work with the follow-up not doing nearly as well. However, this song had the right hooks to make it stand out on its own. The trio would have other hits, but these two #5 hits would easily be their best 1-2 punch.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Technically, this was the fourth single from the album. In 1985, this song and "Exposed to Love" were picked up by Arista Records and released as singles. Neither would reach the Pop chart, but both were hits at Dance reaching #1 and #12, respectively. These recordings were done with the original members of the trio. After Arista called for a full album, the trio was fully recast with three new members. When the Exposure album was first released, it included the original versions of the first two singles along with tracks from the new Exposé lineup including the next single "Come Go with Me." As that song was shaping up to be a hit, the trio went back into the studio and re-recorded "Point of No Return." Since it did not hit the Pop chart the first time around, a reissue in a new version seemed like a viable follow-up. The album was then updated with further pressing replacing the old trio version of the song with the new one. The new single would become the trio's second consecutive #5 hit.


Thursday, April 30, 2020

"Weatherman Says" by Jack Wagner

Song#:  3119
Date:  05/09/1987
Debut:  87
Peak:  67
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The General Hospital actor's singing career got kicked off in a big way with the 1984 #2 Pop hit "All I Need" (#1 AC). The song helped get his debut album of the same name to #44. But after that hit, Wagner had trouble following it up. After two low-charting singles and a second album that didn't sell well, Wagner gave it another shot with his third LP Don't Give Up Your Day Job. The title was most likely meant as a joke, but it ended up actually being prophetic. This first single didn't get very far and that left the album dangling at a low #151. The results didn't excite his label Qwest (the Quincy Jones-headed Warner Bros offshoot) and Wagner was soon without a contract. In keeping with the LP's title, Wagner continued his work on General Hospital through to 1991. He would reappear on the show a couple of times over the years. Wagner kept mainly to acting making TV movies and starring in the nighttime soap Melrose Place. He also joined the cast of another daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful and remained on the show for nine years. Every now and then he would return to singing and issue out the occasional indie album.

ReduxReview:  Wagner's take on the tune (see below) benefits from better production (via Tony Peluso) and his stronger voice. However, it was still just the same song simply dressed in different clothes. The spiffier attire along with Wagner's name gave it a boost on the Pop chart, but it wasn't enough to make a hit out of the song. Even though Wagner's version was a bit better, it didn't make me want to rate it any higher than Jameson's original.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally co-written (with Kim O'Leary) and performed by Nick Jameson. Jameson's version, which was just titled "Weatherman," was released as a single in 1986 and became a minor blip on the Pop chart for a couple of weeks peaking at #95. 2) Wagner later got to combine his acting and singing skills when he appeared in the 1997 Tony-winning Broadway musical Jekyll & Hyde. Wagner would take over the title role for a period during the show's run. Prior to this appearance, Wagner had roles in the national touring versions of West Side Story and Grease.


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

"Variety Tonight" by REO Speedwagon

Song#:  3118
Date:  05/09/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  60
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  REO's Life As We Know It album didn't necessarily start off well. Its first single, "That Ain't Love," got to #5 at Rock, but received a cooler welcome at Pop where it stopped at #16. Their previous album Wheels Are Turnin' similarly got off to a shaky start, but its second single "Can't Fight This Feeling" (#1 Pop) ended up making the album a #7 double-platinum seller. The band was perhaps hoping this next single from Life As We Know It might prove to spark sales as well, but it didn't work out that way. The track was a minor entry at Rock getting to #28 while not even cracking the top half of the Pop chart. With the album stalling at #28, their next single needed to do much better (spoiler - it did, but not in a major way) to boost sales.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't a fan of the band's material that followed the classic Hi Infidelty album. About the only single I kind of liked was 1982's "Keep the Fire Burnin'" from Good Trouble. After that, their output was full of tepid pop/rock tunes or overblown ballads. However, this single was an unexpected surprise. It didn't necessarily fall in line with REO's typical sound, which was a good thing. It was one of the rare songs written by the band's keyboardist Neal Doughty and he did a fine job giving the band something new to do. It was definitely not the rock 'n' roll of the band's earlier days, but it was a nice stab at 80s-influenced rock. I quite like the churning feel of the tune along with the chorus and background vocals. The tune kind of reminds me of something a UK band like Wang Chung or Tears for Fears might have done, which is a positive comment. Was it classic REO? No and perhaps that is why did didn't do so well on the charts. But for me it was their best track since the Hi Infidelity days.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Listeners of the syndicated Bob & Tom radio morning show may be familiar with the blues singer/songwriter/guitarist Duke Tumatoe. He and his band make guest appearances on the radio program several times a year. Tumatoe has remained a popular club attraction over the years around the midwest and specifically in his adopted home of Indianapolis. He has recorded several albums and even had one produced by John Fogerty, 1988's live disc I Like My Job. Originally from Chicago, Tumatoe's given name was Bill Fiorio. In the late 60s, Fiorio became the guitarist for a local band named REO Speedwagon. At the time, the band was more soul-oriented and that fit in with Fiorio's love of Chicago-style blues. But then in 1969, the band decided to make a shift towards rock music. The new direction wasn't a fit for Fiorio, so he left the band before they got signed and issued out their 1971 debut album.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

"Break Every Rule" by Tina Turner

Song#:  3117
Date:  05/09/1987
Debut:  89
Peak:  74
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Turner's album Break Every Rule would be a platinum seller, but that was about one-quarter of what her previous LP, the Grammy-winning Private Dancer, sold. The lower sales were mainly due to the lack of major hits. To this point, three tracks would be released as singles, yet only "Typical Male" would crack the Pop Top 10 (#2). The label decided to give it another shot with this fourth single. The title track was unable to catch on and it stumbled after a few weeks on the chart. It would be the last single released from the album.

ReduxReview:  While this is one of the more enticing tracks from the album, it wasn't necessarily the most single-worthy. The track had a bit of a Fixx feel to it thanks to producer/co-writer Rupert Hine, who had produced that UK band's first four LPs. It grooved along just fine, but the chorus wasn't nearly strong enough to move ahead of far hookier songs on the chart.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) To help promote Break Every Rule, Turner went out on a massive worldwide tour, which included a stop at Rio de Janeiro's Maracanã Stadium. Her show there on January 16, 1988, set a record for the single biggest ticketed concert (excluding free concerts and festivals) with 180,000 people in attendance. Her record would be broken two years later by just 4,000 people when Paul McCartney played the same venue. Turner's Rio show still ranks in the Top 5 for biggest paid attendance.  2) The tour also spawned Turner's first live album. The double-CD Tina in Europe mainly consisted of performances from the Break Every Rule tour, but also included a few from her Private Dancer tour and other live shows. The album was successful in Europe and other countries going Top 10. Some singles were released from the LP in various countries with the live duet track "Tonight" featuring David Bowie doing the best getting to #1 in the Netherlands and #3 in Belgium. In the US, no singles were officially released from the album, but it sold fairly well getting to #86. The album would end up earning Turner her seventh Grammy award. She would win in the Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female, category.


Monday, April 27, 2020

"Ready or Not" by Lou Gramm

Song#:  3116
Date:  05/09/1987
Debut:  90
Peak:  54
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Foreigner lead singer grabbed a hit when "Midnight Blue," a single from his debut solo album Ready or Not got to #1 at Rock and #5 Pop. The hit helped the album reach #27. To keep things rolling, this second title-track single was issued out. The track would do well at Rock getting to #7, but it fell short of the top half of the Pop chart. Although it would be the last single officially released from the album, the track "Heartache" would get enough airplay to reach #47 on the Rock chart. Gramm would then get back to business with Foreigner and by the time the calendar would change to 1988, their new album was ready to go.

ReduxReview:  Following the catchy pop of "Midnight Blue," this track put Gramm back into arena rock territory. Its meaty, growling chorus attracted a crowd at rock radio, but it may have been a bit too much for the more mainstream audience who had flocked to "Midnight Blue." I liked the tune fine. It was a chunky rock track with a good chorus. I just think it may not have been the best follow-up. However, there wasn't any other track on the album that was as radio-ready as "Midnight Blue," so it was probably Gramm's best shot at a second hit.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Back in the early 70s prior to Gramm joining Black Sheep, his band before Foreigner, Gramm worked with a band/project called Poor Heart, which was headed up by Jim Alaimo and Paul Curcio. Alaimo and Curcio had some modest success in the mid-60s with their group The Mojo Men. That band would land three singles on the Pop chart with 1967's "Sit Down, I Think I Love You" doing the best reaching #36. The pair hired on Gramm to supply the vocals for their Poor Heart project. Gramm sang lead vocals on all the songs, which were written (save for two cover tunes) and produced by Alaimo and Curcio. The recording didn't get released and Gramm moved on to Black Sheep. Years later after the massive success of Foreigner and Gramm's solo work, a bootleg version of the recordings suddenly appeared. It was issued in the US at Poor Heart featuring Lou Grammatico (Grammatico being Gramm's given last name, which he used prior to joining Foreigner). The bootleg got picked up in other countries and went by other titles listing Lou Gramm as the artist. Gramm disavowed the recordings and would have preferred for them to not be distributed, but since he was really just the hired vocalist, there wasn't too much he could do legally without spending a ton of money.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

"Weapons of Love" by The Truth

Song#:  3115
Date:  05/09/1987
Debut:  92
Peak:  65
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This British band was formed in 1982 by Dennis Greaves and Mick Lister. They signed on with the Warner Bros. offshoot label Formation in 1983 and released three singles for the label. Two of the a-side songs were produced by the Swain & Jolley team (Bananarama) with both making the UK Top 40. A third single didn't fare as well and it seemed that their time with WEA came to an end. In 1984, they moved over to I.R.S. Records and were able to record a debut album titled Playground. It was released in the UK and several other territories including the US, but nothing much came from it. Still, the band was given the green light to record a follow-up and in 1987 they released the LP Weapons of Love. The title track was issued out as a single. It failed to chart in the UK, but it caught on in the US on rock radio and the track cracked the Top 10 (#7) on the Rock chart. It then crossed over to Pop for a couple of months but it stopped shy of the top half of the chart. The album got to #115. The band would record one more album in 1989, but it disappeared quickly and the band then called it a day.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure where I would have heard this song back in the day, but I recognized it. My guess is that it was featured on the MTV show 120 Minutes, which highlighted up-n-coming alt-rock artists. I liked that program as it played songs that I would not have normally been able to hear on local radio stations. I discovered quite a few bands from that show so I'm thinking that's where I would have heard this track. It was a good alt-rock track that included a little hint of blues to it (probably thanks in part to Greaves former band - see below). The production definitely had a foothold in the 80s, but it was well-done. The track was a good one for rock radio, but I don't think it had enough catchy pop/rock characteristics to get further up the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Prior to forming The Truth, Dennis Greaves had experienced some success with the British blues-rock band Nine Below Zero. Formed in the late 70s by Greaves, the band got signed to A&M Records and in 1980 made the unusual move of releasing a live album for their debut. The disc was well-received and it lead to a studio album follow-up with 1981's Don't Point Your Finger. Despite no charting singles, the LP did well reaching #56 on the UK chart. A third effort, 1982's Third Degree got to #38, but it wasn't as critically successful as their previous two discs and the band decided to split. Greaves then went on to form The Truth with Mick Lister.