Saturday, June 6, 2020

"I Want Action" by Poison

Song#:  3156
Date:  06/13/1987
Debut:  90
Peak:  50
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  This band broke through in a big way with the second single from their debut album Look What the Cat Dragged In. The raucous "Talk Dirty to Me" surprisingly found its way into the Pop Top 10 (#9). However, in an odd twist the tune didn't even make the Rock chart and neither did this follow-up single. Again, it was able to make the Pop chart where it topped out at the halfway point. The two songs plus exposure on MTV helped sell their album, which had already been certified platinum by this point in time. But the album hadn't run out of gas yet as a fourth single would be another significant hit for them.

ReduxReview:  With it's shuffle beat and arena-ready chorus, this was a good follow-up choice even though it wasn't as immediately accessible or commercial-leaning as "Talk Dirty to Me." It probably should have gotten into the Pop Top 40, but its #50 peak wasn't a bad showing. It helped to further establish the band's sound and party vibe. Plus, their videos on MTV certainly won them a lot of fans.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The evolution of the band started with lead singer Bret Michaels who began a band in his basement at home in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania called Laser. Then he formed a band with his friend Rikki Rockett called the Spectres. By 1980, Michaels and Rockett formed the band Paris with Bobby Dall and Matt Smith. Hoping to expand their career, they moved to L.A. in 1983 and changed their name to Poison. Smith would leave the band and would be replaced by C.C. DeVille. That would be Poison's line-up through their heydays. There are varying stories on how the band chose the name Poison. It's been said that they took the name from the song "Poison" that was on the 1981 self-titled debut album of the hard rock band Kix. Another story is that they got it from a t-shirt sported by the character/drummer Mick Shrimpton in the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap. Another site states the name came about due to a politician calling rock music poison. Whatever the real story, Poison was certainly a better and more marketable metal band name than Paris.


Friday, June 5, 2020

"Want You for My Girlfriend" by 4 By Four

Song#:  3155
Date:  06/13/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  79
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This vocal quartet from NYC consisted of brothers Damen and Lance Heyward along with cousins Jeraude Jackson and Steve Gray. The group had a New Edition vibe to them and that got the attention of Capitol Records, who may have been looking for their own version of the hitmakers. They were setup with songwriter/producer Charles Carter (Slave, Steve Arrington's Hall of Fame) and recorded several tracks with some co-written by members of the group. But it seems they needed a couple more potential hits for their self-titled debut album and some assistance was given by the team of Charles Carter and Chuck Jackson, who wrote and produced this first single. It would do quite well at R&B reaching #8. That success led to the song crossing over to the Pop chart for a few weeks. A second single, "Come Over," written and produced by Melvin Riley, Jr. (of Ready for the World), would also crack the R&B Top 10 (#10), but it failed to make the Pop chart. The LP's final single, "Don't Put the Blame on Me," would only scrape the R&B chart at #72. The album would top out at #28 R&B and #141 Pop. The results were positive and it seemed the group was poised for more success, but then something happened that brought 4 By Four to a sudden halt. A couple of posts mention that group had a dispute with their management, but whatever the situation was, the group quietly dissolved and never recorded again.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. Whichever of the guys is singing lead vocals (I think it is Damen Heyward) sounded like the real version of Prince's manipulated vocal alter ego "Camille," which oddly is the voice Prince used on his own girlfriend song "If I Was Your Girlfriend." It threw me off a bit. These guys were still in their late teens, but I didn't expect such a high-pitched voice coming my way. The production is pretty good with hints of the Jam & Lewis/Minneapolis sound. The chorus is fine and it grooves along well in an 80s R&B/dance-pop fashion. It wasn't strong enough to break on the Pop chart, but it wasn't a bad debut single from the New Edition wannabes.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  It seems that after the group split, Damen Heyward was the only member that stayed in the music business. He would later end up joining the Force MD's and tour with them while also working as a background vocalist for artists like R&B singer Joe ("Stutter," #1 Pop/#1 R&B, 2001). He later became a music teacher, Pastor, and gospel music artist.


Thursday, June 4, 2020

"Still of the Night" by Whitesnake

Song#:  3154
Date:  06/13/1987
Debut:  92
Peak:  79
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  This UK band formed by former Deep Purple singer David Coverdale had been having success in the 80s at home grabbing four Top 10 albums. In the US, they had trouble breaking through. Their 1980 album Ready an' Willing got to #90 with the single "Fool for Your Love" able to chart at #53, but the band's next two albums didn't make an impression. Their 1985 album Slide it In gained them a bigger audience thanks to a pair of Rock chart tracks and it even went gold, but it still didn't break them through on a wide scale. Taking a cue from other hard rock/glam metal bands that were having success at the time, Coverdale decided to add some more mainstream elements to the next effort. The self-titled disc was mainly all written by Coverdale and band member John Sykes and this first single got things kicked off. Released in April, the song did well at Rock getting to #18 boosted by a video that became highly successful on MTV. Eventually it was able to cross over to the Pop chart for a few weeks, but by that time the album had already taken off. The week this song debuted on the Pop chart, the album reached its peak of #2 on the album chart and had already gone gold. With rock and metal fans on board, the band could then unleash a pair of mainstream-ready singles that would send sales of the album to over 8 million copies in the US. 

ReduxReview:  A little Led Zeppelin anyone? Coverdale certainly found inspiration in that band and his former band Deep Purple for this track. While the tune wore its influences on its sleeves with Coverdale even sounding quite Robert Plant-ish, I wouldn't call it an imitation or rip off. I thought enough was done to make the song stand on its own while showing off some classic rock references. I dug the tune right away and I ended up buying the album because I wanted the full version of the song and not the crappy single edit. It's an epic hard rock track done in a big 80s fashion and I think it still holds up today.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The video for this song quickly got the attention of viewers. Out of the box it became the channel's most requested video. Sure the song was good, but what made a lot of folks want to see it again was actress/model Tawny Kitaen. She was Coverdale's girlfriend at the time and this was her first appearance in a Whitesnake video. It wasn't her first music video though. She previously appeared in the video for Ratt's "Back for More" in 1984. She was also the model seen on the cover of the band's debut album. This came about due to her relationship with Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby. But after they split, Kitaen then started up with Coverdale. They would eventually marry in 1989, but would divorce a couple of years later.


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

"Downtown Train" by Patty Smyth

Song#:  3153
Date:  06/13/1987
Debut:  95
Peak:  95
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  After breaking through with her band Scandal, Patty Smyth decided to go out on her own and pushed out a solo album titled Never Enough. The title track was the LP's first single and it did well at Rock hitting #4. Over on the Pop chart, the song had a tough time and could only manage a #61 showing. To follow it up, this next track was released. Unfortunately, it barely got out of the gate getting to #40 at Rock while only spending a couple of weeks at the bottom of the Pop chart. A third single, "Isn't It Enough," would do a little better at Rock hitting #26, but it failed to make the Pop chart. The album would end up being a modest seller reaching #66. Smyth would have better luck with her second solo effort.

ReduxReview:  At the time I wasn't aware of Symth's single and I hadn't hooked into Tom Waits yet. So the first version of this song that I remember was Rod Stewart's hit (see below). Waits ended up being one of my all-time favorite artists, but for me I preferred Stewart's take even above Waits' original. Stewart made the tune more commercial friendly (in a good way) and it even felt cinematic. His reading of it was just about perfect and there was a lonely, yet romantic feel to it all. Waits' more sparse take felt more lived-in and bruised. It is also excellent, but I just prefer Stewart's dream-like take. As for Smyth's version, it basically comes off as an average rock tune. It is perfectly fine and the sax solo is a nice add, but when compared to the others, I don't get much from it. The recording also didn't have that extra commercial edge like Stewart's so it fell a bit flat on the charts. The material and potential was there. Smyth and her producers just didn't get it quite right.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally written and recorded by Tom Waits. It was included on his 1985 album Rain Dogs and released as a single, but it did not chart. Rain Dogs was Waits' second album for Island Records following 1983's Swordfishtrombones. Both LPs represented a shift in direction for Waits to experimental rock and have been included on many "best albums of all-time" lists. Smyth was the first artist to pick up and cover this song on record. Her version just beat another to the line. Contemporary folk/country artist Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded the tune for her 1985 debut album Hometown Girl, which was released in July of '87. She did not release the track as a single. Of course the most famous version of the song would come in 1989 when Rod Stewart's take would hit #3 Pop/#1 AC/#1 Rock. Around the same time that Stewart was recording his take, Bob Seger was also doing one. Stewart's ended up getting released first and that left Seger's record on the shelf. He would end up placing it in 2011 on his compilation Ultimate Hits. It would be released as a single and it would reach #17 on the AC chart.


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

"Certain Things Are Likely" by KTP

Song#:  3152
Date:  06/13/1987
Debut:  97
Peak:  97
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This UK band, originally named Kissing the Pink, had been known for their new wave experimental rock sound that garnered them a cult audience. They signed with Magnet Records and after releasing albums in '83 and '84, they didn't have much to show for it except a minor US chart entry with 1983's "Maybe This Day" (#87 Pop). Magnet still wanted to invest in the band, but wanted them to spruce up their sound to make it more commercial. In other words, they wanted a hit from the band. After some personnel changes and a trimming down of their name to just KTP, the group recorded their third album Certain Things Are Likely. It signaled a significant shift in sound from quirky new wave to streamlined dance-pop. The LP's first single, "One Step," didn't do much in the UK only getting to #79. However, it caught on in US clubs and the song ended up at #5 on the Dance chart. A follow-up single, "Never Too Late to Love You," wouldn't do as well (#87 UK/#32 US Dance). This third track was then issued out. In the UK it wouldn't chart, but it would become a major hit on the US Dance chart reaching #1. The song's success there allowed it to cross over to the Pop chart where it would circle the bottom rungs for a month. Despite having a pair of Top 10s on the Dance chart, the album wasn't a big seller and it failed to chart. Magnet apparently wasn't impressed with the results and KTP had to seek another record deal.

ReduxReview:  This song is certainly different from the noir-ish new wave of '83's "Maybe This Day." It was obvious that they were looking to break through in a bigger way. This track had a Dead or Alive/Stock Aitken Waterman vibe combined with some British new wave/synthpop. The charging tune was a club floor filler in the US and there was opportunity for it to break wider, but I don't think it got the promotional push needed to really crack the Pop chart. While I don't think it would have been a major hit, it certainly could have been a Top 40 contender. Actually, their first Dance chart hit "One Step" was a really nice track that had a Human League feel to it. I'm surprised that song didn't do better in the UK. The album is a surprisingly good listen. Critics and fans balked because it wasn't anything like their previous discs, but I think they did a good job in their attempt to become more mainstream.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Following their time at Magnet, KTP then signed on with Warner Bros. They reverted back to their original name of Kissing the Pink and recorded the single "Stand Up (Get Down)." The song didn't chart and Warner Bros. lost interest in the group. An indie album would follow later in 1993. The band in various iterations would kick around over the years and even record some songs that were released on Bandcamp in 2015.


Monday, June 1, 2020

"I Want Your Sex" by George Michael

Top 10 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  3151
Date:  06/06/1987
Debut:  51
Peak:  2
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Electro-Funk

Pop Bits:  Although George Michael had a couple of singles credited to his name while with Wham! and a had supporting role on "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me," the #1 duet with Aretha Franklin, his solo career didn't get fully kicked off until this single was released. The track would do double duty; it would be the third single released from the Beverly Hills II soundtrack while also previewing Michael's debut solo album, Faith, which would get released later in October. The track, especially its title, would elicit controversy, which of course only helped to promote the song and it would end up reaching #2 at both Pop and Dance while getting to #43 at R&B. It would also be a big seller going platinum, a certification that was getting rare by this point in time (the RIAA would change rules for certification in 1989 to address this). It was quite the way to kick off a solo career and it would only go up from here.

ReduxReview:  Michael idolized Prince and this song certainly was a reflection of that adoration. While it certainly had shades of the Purple One, I thought Michael did a nice job incorporating what he'd learned over the years with Wham! and in the end he created something that was a definitive line in the sand between his Wham! days and his solo career. He had decisively moved from teeny-bopper pop to something more groovy and mature. I loved the song and like a lot of people I bought the single. However, I will say that over the years the tune has lost a little bit of its luster. It's not quite as enthralling now as when it was first released. It's still a fun track and a good listen, but the "wow" factor from back in the day has diminished.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This single was actually just the first part of a longer three-part song. Although all parts were under the "I Want Your Sex" title, each part had a subtitle: "Rhythm One: Lust," which was used for the single, "Rhythm Two: Brass in Love," and "Rhythm Three: A Last Request." Parts one and two would be included on the Faith album while part three would only be available on the 12" single of the song and as a bonus track on the CD versions of Faith. The full three-part song, which clocked in at over 13 minutes, would be tagged as the Monogamy Mix and as of this date is still only available on the 12" single.  2) Since this song was first featured in a film, it was eligible for movie-related awards and it did end up winning one trophy. Unfortunately, it was the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song.  3) Hard to believe now, but back in the 80s just having a DJ announce a song called "I Want Your Sex" was a little shocking, especially after all the PMRC uproar concerning potentially offensive music. Even American Top 40 host Casey Kasem famously refused to say the song's title on the air. Instead, he would call it George Michael's "latest single". Some folks thought the song promoted promiscuity and that led some stations to banning the track. The BBC would only play it later in the evenings. Even the video had its share of issues with MTV initially refusing to air it. But as the song's popularity grew and folks got used to it, the reins loosened up a bit. Still, the controversy along with lack of airplay in some places helped sales of the single.


Sunday, May 31, 2020

"Cross My Broken Heart" by The Jets

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3150
Date:  06/06/1987
Debut:  63
Peak:  7
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Dance-Pop, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  At this point in time, this family band's self-titled debut album was just about to get a platinum certification. It got there thanks to a pair of #3 Pop hits, "Crush on You" and "You Got It All." As the band began to prepare their follow-up album, they got the opportunity to record a song for a film soundtrack. This song co-written and co-produced by Stephen Bray (of Madonna fame and The Breakfast Club) was what came The Jets' way and they got it recorded for the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy flick Beverly Hills Cop II. It was issued out as the soundtrack's second single on the heels of Bob Seger's "Shakedown." It would also serve as the lead single to The Jets' second album, Magic, which would be released in the fall. The song would be another multi-format hit for the band making the Top 10 at Pop, #8 Dance, and #11 R&B.

ReduxReview:  This song was a good vehicle for the family band. It certainly had a contemporary Madonna sound to it thanks to Bray. Had the label/producers hired a Madonna-ish singer to record the song, it may not have been as big of a hit because it might have sounded like a rip-off. However, since it was The Jets and they already had a couple of hits under their belt, the song sounded more like an extension of their sound rather than an imitation. Bray probably should have kept the tune for his own band (The Breakfast Club), but either way, he ended up with a solid hit.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Labels sometimes like to capitalize on artists who have broken through quickly with their debut album. Especially artists who have a large teen-based following or perhaps fall in the AC crowd. If the timing is right, one of the ways to do that is to get the artist to record a holiday album. Due to the artist being hot at the time, holiday albums can sell well and can be money makers since they are typically done quickly on a low budget. And if the artist has longevity, there is a chance the album could continue to sell over several holiday seasons. MCA seemed like it was a good idea for The Jets to hop on board a sleigh and deliver a gift to their fans. The band recorded Christmas with the Jets and it was released in time for the '86 holiday season. It was a more modern Christmas album with the band doing contemporary tunes instead of old holiday standards. Unfortunately, it seems only a few folks bought the album. The album topped off at a minor #30 on the Holiday Albums chart.