Saturday, June 20, 2020

"Give to Live" by Sammy Hagar

Song#:  3170
Date:  06/20/1987
Debut:  69
Peak:  23
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  When Hagar was selected for the lead singer role in Van Halen following David Lee Roth's departure, he was signed to Geffen Records as a solo act. VH was on Warner Bros. In order for Hagar to move forward with VH, some negotiations between the labels had to take place and as part of the deal Hagar had to record one more solo album for Geffen. Once things had calmed down following the success of his first album with VH, 5150, Hagar got back into the studio to fulfill the obligation. His VH bandmate Eddie Van Halen tagged along to play bass and co-produce. The finished product, I Never Said Goodbye, was issued out and this first single was released. It would be a major hit at Rock becoming Hagar's first and only solo track to reach #1 on that chart. That result helped its crossover chances and the tune was able to get close to the Pop Top 20. The album would make it to #14 and would become a gold seller. With his Geffen contract fulfilled, Hagar got back to business with Van Halen.

ReduxReview:  Despite having Eddie Van Halen helping out, this track is all Hagar. The power ballad didn't sound anything like a VH track and that was a good thing. Hagar needed to keep his solo identity separated from his VH duties. The song was a good effort and thanks to his profile getting boosted in a major way with VH's 5150, folks paid attention. It was a hit at Rock and it even did fairly well on the Pop chart peaking in the same area as VH's previous two singles. The album would go gold and I'm sure that Geffen was pleased with the results getting what they could out of Hagar before he left the label for good. I thought the song was good, but not great. The big chorus had some heft, but the balance of the tune didn't stick with me. When it came time to write about this tune, I couldn't remember a lick of it and also didn't realize it was a Top 30 hit, so I guess it didn't make much of an impression on me back in the day.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  When the album was finished, the original intent was for it to be a self-titled effort that just featured a picture on Hagar on the front cover. It would have been Hagar's second self-titled album following his 1977 second solo LP. Initial pressing of the album did follow this plan and were distributed, but then a promotional opportunity came up via MTV. A "name my album" contest was run on the channel where viewers could sent in their suggestions. Hagar helped to choose the winner, which ended up being I Never Said Goodbye. Further pressings of the album featured the new title. It would be Hagar's only solo effort during his time with Van Halen.


Friday, June 19, 2020

"That's Freedom" by Tom Kimmel

Song#:  3169
Date:  06/20/1987
Debut:  83
Peak:  64
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This Tennessee-born singer/songwriter started to get a foothold in the business supplying songs to other artists. A song he wrote called "Heroes" would be recorded by five different artists over a three-year span including a version by The Highwaymen (Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings). The work led to Kimmel getting a solo deal with Mercury Records. Kimmel would record his own version of "Heroes" for his debut album 5 to 1. Also included was this first single. It found an audience at Rock where the tune topped out at #17. It crossed over to the Pop chart, but only stuck around for a couple of months. Follow-up singles failed to chart and that left the album peaking at #104. He returned in 1990 with an album for Polydor, but nothing came from it. A few years later, Kimmel moved from a more mainstream pop/rock sound to contemporary folk and began releasing independent albums. His songs would continue to get picked up by artists such as Trio (Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris), the Stray Cats, and Kathy Mattea.

ReduxReview:  If John Waite and Rod Stewart had a baby, it might have come out as Tom Kimmel. The tune itself sounded like something that Waite might have done during his No Brakes period while Kimmel's voice had a tone and rasp that wasn't too far from the school of Stewart. It's a good rock tune with a hooky chorus that chimes with a bit of the ol' American spirit. I'm surprised the song wasn't picked up for use in some commercial. It became hit in Australia a few years later (see below), but despite being a solid song, it just wasn't strong enough to click on US pop radio.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although Kimmel wouldn't have a major hit with this song, another artist ended up doing better with a version. Australian star and former Little River Band front man John Farnham recorded the song for his 1990 solo album Chain Reaction. It would be released as the LP's second single and it would reach #6 on the Australian chart. The song was unable to chart in the US. Farnham was a huge music star in Australia, but in the US he remained relatively unknown with his only Pop chart entry coming in 1990 with "You're the Voice" (#82).


Thursday, June 18, 2020

"Living In A Box" by Living In A Box

Song#:  3168
Date:  06/20/1987
Debut:  85
Peak:  17
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Sophisti-Pop

Pop Bits:  This UK trio officially came together in 1985. Anthony Critchlow and Marcus Vere were working up a new track when vocalist Richard Darbyshire popped into the studio. Darbyshire was nearly set to embark on a solo career on Virgin Records when he was asked to supply vocals to Critchlow and Vere's new song. The three worked well together and the resulting track called "Living in a Box" got them an offer from Chrysalis Records. Darbyshire set his solo aspirations aside and the trio was born. Needing a band name, they used the title of the song that brought them together. Work began on a self-titled debut album and this single got pushed out. It did well in the UK reaching #5. Across the pond, the song was a hit in the clubs and it got to #6 on the Dance chart. It then crossed over to Pop where it cracked the Top 20. Despite the hit, the album was a modest seller only getting to #89.

ReduxReview:  I liked this song when it came out and grabbed the single. Beside the tune itself, I really liked the production. It was crisp and clean, yet it had enough heft to drive the song. It wasn't one of those cheap sounding 80s tracks. Producers Richard Burgess and Tom Lord-Alge, who had both been doing excellent work with other artists, did a great job shining this one up. It's kind of a lost track now even though it made the Top 20. The album wasn't too bad either, but there was nothing as catchy as this track.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  R&B singer Bobby Womack covered this tune for his 1987 album The Last Soul Man. He also released his version as a single, but it failed to chart in the US. It did make a very minor impression on the UK chart at #70. By this point in time, Womack's career was in free fall. A few years earlier in 1981 he had scored a #1 R&B album with The Poet and his 1985 album So Many Rivers featured the #2 R&B hit "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much." His next two albums didn't get much attention and so for The Last Soul Man he decided to do his own rendition of "Living in a Box" for the R&B audience. It didn't work out and Womack ended up losing his contract with MCA Records. To make things worse, Womack had been battling a drug addiction for years. By the 90s, he would kick the habit and continue with his music. In 2012, Womack experienced a bit of a comeback with the album The Bravest Man in the Universe, which got to #21 on the R&B chart. Womack would die in 2014 before a follow-up album could be released.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

"Still a Thrill" by Jody Watley

Song#:  3167
Date:  06/20/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  56
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  The first single from Watley's self-titled solo album, "Looking for a New Love," turned into a major hit reaching #1 at R&B and Dance while getting to #2 at Pop. The former Shalamar member's star was on the rise and she tried to keep things going with this second single. While it was another hit at R&B (#3) and Dance (#8), the track wasn't able to break as well on the Pop chart and it ended up stalling in the bottom half of the chart. Luckily, her next two singles were strong enough to overcome this minor bump in the road and helped to get her album to platinum status.

ReduxReview:  This groovy tune had a distinct Prince smell to it, which came courtesy of AndrĂ© Cymone who had been in Prince's pre-Revolution band. It was a juicy jam that was enhanced by Watley's lower register monotone delivery. The tune was ripe enough to easily become a hit at R&B and Dance, but I think it just wasn't quite as mainstream hooky as "Looking for a New Love" and it just wasn't the song needed to retain a pop audience. I think it's a terrific song and was a good candidate for release, but it might have done better as the LP's fourth single.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Another artist getting their solo career going after leaving a group made a guest appearance on Watley's debut album. A song George Michael had co-written with Richard "Dimples" Fields, "Learn to Say No" was given to Watley. Michael not only co-wrote the song, but also appeared on the track as a duet partner. The track was produced by Bernard Edwards. The collaboration came about when Watley, who was living in London post-Shalamar, was a participant (along with Michael) on Bob Geldof's Band-Aid single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" She and Michael struck up a conversation with both professing an admiration for each other's work. Watley smartly seized the moment and asked Michael if he would duet with her when she secured a record deal. He said yes and the pair kept in contact. True to his word, once Watley signed with MCA Records, Michael fulfilled his promise with "Learn to Say No." The only downside to it was that Michael's label wouldn't let it be released as a single, so it remained an album track only.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

"These Times Are Hard for Lovers" by John Waite

Song#:  3166
Date:  06/20/1987
Debut:  90
Peak:  53
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Waite's third album Mask of Smiles made it to #36, but that was a bit of a disappointment coming on the heels of his 1984 gold-selling #10 LP No Brakes that featured the #1 hit "Missing You." Waite needed to turn things around so for his next effort, Rover's Return, he sought help from a few top songwriters including Diane Warren, Dan Hartman, and Desmond Child, who co-wrote and co-produced this first single. The track got a positive reaction on rock radio and it ended up reaching #6 on the Rock chart. At Pop, the news wasn't so great. The tune spent quite a bit of time on the chart, but it just couldn't break through in a big way and it stalled before reaching the Top 50. The result had an effect on sales of the album. It would fizzle out at #77 making it the lowest peaking of his four solo discs.

ReduxReview:  You can practically see Desmond Child's fingerprints all over this song. The near-chanting chorus with those high-pitched background vocals were a direct reflection of songs Child had written/produced for artists like Bonnie Tyler and Bon Jovi. Having Child on board did give Waite a much needed boost, but it wasn't quite enough to secure him a hit. The tune did well at Rock, but for some reason it just couldn't catch fire at Pop, although it certainly tried spending 16 weeks on the chart. My guess is that Waite just couldn't get passed the legacy of "Missing You." He was best known for that MOR ballad, but at heart he was a rocker and he just wasn't able to come up with the right song to bridge that 80s classic and his tougher tunes. This was a good attempt and appropriate for a time when Bon Jovi was scoring hits, yet it seemed that a mainstream audience wanted the softer version of Waite, not the glam rocker.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The album was co-produced by Frank Filipetti. Filipetti was mainly an engineer/mixer who worked with many top artists including Foreigner, the Bangles, Carly Simon, and James Taylor. He would also take a spin in the producer's chair once in a while as he did for John Waite. It would be his production work for James Taylor that would earn Filipetti his first two Grammy awards. He co-produced Taylor's 1997 album Hourglass, which went on to win for Best Pop Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Filipetti would then get involved in the recording of cast albums for Broadway shows. His work on those recordings would earn him five more Grammys. The shows he won for were Aida, Wicked, Monty Python's Spamalot, The Book of Mormon, and The Color Purple. He would get further nominations for three other shows, Newsies, Motown the Musical, and Aladdin.


Monday, June 15, 2020

"Why Can't I Be You?" by The Cure

Song#:  3165
Date:  06/20/1987
Debut:  92
Peak:  54
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This goth-rock rooted UK band started to gain attention in the US with their sixth album The Head on the Door. It featured the college rock radio staple "In Between Days (Without You)," which made a very brief appearance on the Pop chart at #99. The LP sold relatively well reaching #59. Hoping to capitalize on that exposure, The Cure then put together an epic and eclectic double-LP titled Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me that featured a couple songs with an eye towards mainstream rock. One of those tracks was this first single. The rock-n-raver with its hooky, questioning chorus and keyboard horns caught some ears and it nearly cracked the Pop Top 50. A remix of the tune was able to reach #27 on the Dance chart. The song helped to gain more fans and in early July the album peaked at #35. By August it had reached gold level sales.

ReduxReview:  The Cure were tagged as goth rock pioneers, but not everything they did was doom and gloom. While the lyrics to this song weren't necessarily happy-happy-joy-joy, the band framed them in an exuberant fashion that even made it danceable. Robert Smith's hyper performance added to the excitement as well. It may have been slightly over the top for pop radio, but it won enough fans to get it near the top half of the chart. Another song from the LP would outdo this one, but the tune did what it was supposed to do, which was draw more people into The Cure's circle.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The Cure's first Top 10 hit in the UK was 1983's "The Love Cats," which made it to #7. It was released as a stand-alone single following their fourth album, 1982's Pornography. The oddball vaudeville-like track was just a lark that leader Robert Smith apparently wrote while inebriated. The band got it recorded and filmed a video for the tune. It was shot in a mansion that was for sale. It seems that the real estate agent was contacted and keys to the place were obtained by the band under the guise that they were interested in buying the building. They got in, filmed the video, and then returned the keys the next day. Directed by Tim Pope, the video featured a lot of cats. Initially the intent was to use a bunch of real cats, but when they proved to be difficult (of course...they're cats!), stuffed (taxidermy) ones were used instead. One big fan of the song was actress Molly Ringwald who ended up playing the tune for her Breakfast Club director John Hughes. According to Ringwald, Hughes then went and wrote a screenplay for a film based on the song. He even had a soundtrack in mind that Ringwald said sounded like a lot of Dave Brubeck followed by a Bob Dylan song. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the script never saw the light of day.


Sunday, June 14, 2020

"Rock-A-Lott" by Aretha Franklin

Song#:  3164
Date:  06/20/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  82
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Aretha's self-titled 1986 album was a certified gold record by December and it would sell a few more copies after its third single, the George Michael duet "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)," hit #1. A follow-up was in order and this next track was selected. It did the best in the clubs with the tune reaching #4 on the Dance chart. At R&B the best it could do was to crack the Top 30 (#25). That didn't bode well for crossover success and indeed the single only spent a short month on the Pop chart. It would end up being the last single released from the album.

ReduxReview:  This was a good song from the album, but it just didn't have the same commercial appeal as some of her recent hits. The tune had a nice groove and Narada Michael Walden's production was spot-on, but it lacked a stronger hook. The title was cool and interesting and sounded like it was going to be a rock-edged track with Aretha selling it like no one's business, yet it didn't really live up to its title. In the end it was a better album track than a single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1990, the Italian Eurodisco DJ act the 49ers released their track "Touch Me." It served as the third single from their self-titled debut album. It would end up being their first major hit reaching the Top 10 in several countries. While the song wouldn't be able to make the US Pop chart, it was a highly successful club track that reached #1 on the Dance chart. The song was notable for using various samples of Aretha Franklin's vocal performance from "Rock-A-Lott." Their follow-up track, "Don't You Love Me," would also reach #1 on the US Dance chart. It featured samples of Jody Watley's voice from her 1987 #6 hit "Don't You Want Me." The tune would reach the US Pop chart peaking at #78. The group's fortunes quickly dissipated with their next (and last) album only featuring two lower charting Dance tracks.