Saturday, July 18, 2020

"Twistin' the Night Away" by Rod Stewart

Song#:  3198
Date:  07/18/1987
Debut:  85
Peak:  80
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The soundtrack for the sci-fi comedy flick Innerspace, starring Martin Short and Dennis Quaid, had already spawned a Pop Top 40 single with the #36 "Hypnotize Me" by Wang Chung. Even though that single was just a minor hit and the film not meeting expectations at the box office, it was decided that this second single from the soundtrack would be released. Rod Stewart's cover tune (see below) didn't make much of an impression and it fell off the Pop chart after a quick month. Stewart was in between albums in 1987 so the timing of the single was certainly good to keep his charting career going, but it just didn't catch on. Stewart would return in 1988 with an album that would become his biggest selling of the 80s.

ReduxReview:  Stewart doing a remake of his own remake was kind of odd in that he didn't do much to improve on his first version except to put it in a big 80s rock arrangement. While there was nothing really wrong with the track, it just seemed to be more glamorous and polished than his first version, which had a true organic rock feel. It was like his '72 version stemmed from a love of Cooke's music along with the song whereas the '87 soundtrack version came off as "you wanna pay me how much to do this?" Because of that, the tune came off as cheezy shtick meant to promote a movie  Even the associated video featured Martin Short. I'd stick with Stewart's '72 cover or, obviously, the classic original by Cooke.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally written and performed by soul singer Sam Cooke. His 1962 version became a #1 R&B/#9 Pop hit. The song would be performed by many artists, but the first one to make the Pop chart with a version was Rod Stewart. However, it wasn't this soundtrack version. Back in 1972, Stewart recorded the song for his album Never a Dull Moment. That LP was mainly famous for its #13 single "You Wear It Well." A second single, "Angel," just barely made the Top 40 at #40. Stewart's remake of the Cooke song was then issued out as the third single. It got to #59. Flash forward to 1987 where in the movie Innerspace there was a scene where Martin Short and Dennis Quaid get a bit drunk and Short does a goofy dance to Sam Cooke's "Twistin' the Night Away." It was a memorable scene so apparently someone thought it was a good idea to have an artist cover the track for the closing credits. Stewart, who had already recorded the tune, was then recruited to re-record it for the soundtrack.


Friday, July 17, 2020

"One Heartbeat" by Smokey Robinson

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3197
Date:  07/18/1987
Debut:  86
Peak:  10
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Robinson grabbed his third Top 10 on the Pop chart with "Just to See Her" (#8), the lead single from his LP One Heartbeat. The song would also get to #1 at AC and #2 R&B. For a follow-up, this title track would be released. It would easily become a hit at both AC (#2) and R&B (#3). At Pop, the tune would get to #10 making it the first time in his solo career that Robinson scored back-to-back Top 10s on that chart. The album would hit #1 at R&B and #27 Pop. It would be Robinson's second gold selling solo LP.

ReduxReview:  Robinson co-wrote all the songs on One Heartbeat except for "Just to See Her" and this title track. Whether he or someone else picked them, both were good choices that led to a career revival. While this song wasn't quite as good as the breezy "Just to See Her," it was still a solid track that had wide appeal. It kind of harked back to the sexier side of Robinson found in songs like "Cruisin'" and "Being with You." It fit him well and gave him one last Pop Top 10.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The b-side to this single was not a track from the album. Instead, an obscure theme to a 1986 movie was used. Robinson co-wrote and performed "Love Will Set You Free," a song that was used as the theme to the sci-fi flick Solarbabies. The movie was executive produced by Mel Brooks and directed by Alan Johnson, a choreographer who had worked with Brooks on several of his films. Johnson's directorial debut was the 1983 war-comedy To Be or Not to Be, which starred Brooks. It received mixed reviews and mediocre box office. Brooks was pitched the idea of Solarbabies and he thought it had a lot of potential. He decided that his Brooksfilms production company would finance the flick about a group of orphans trying to overthrow the organization that basically lorded over a post-apocalyptic Earth. The production was a mess from the get-go. As the film's budget and ambition grew, the original director, co-writer Douglas Metrov, was replaced by Johnson. The film's cast, which included fresh new faces like Jami Gertz, Peter DeLuise, and Jason Patrik, didn't get along with Johnson. Bad weather delayed filming. Scenes were shot that didn't really make sense. The budget kept increasing with Brooks having to put his own money into the film (it nearly bankrupted him). To top things off, it was decided to release the film on the same day as another sci-fi flick, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Critics savaged the film with Gene Siskel even calling it "trash." It ended up a box office bomb. Brooks would rebound the following year with the hit Spaceballs. For Johnson, it would be the last film he would direct. The Smokey Robinson tune was released as a single in Canada only, but it did not chart. It got a wider release when used as the b-side to "One Heartbeat."


Thursday, July 16, 2020

"Johnny B" by The Hooters

Song#:  3196
Date:  07/18/1987
Debut:  87
Peak:  61
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock, Folk-Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's second album, 1985's Nervous Night, was an unexpected double-platinum #12 success thanks to three Pop Top 40 hits including the #18 "Day By Day." After spending a couple of years on the road, the band returned to the studio to record their follow-up album One Way Home. This track would serve as the first single and it did well at Rock reaching #3. However, it wasn't able to gain an audience at Pop and the tune stalled before it could even get into the top half of the chart. It wasn't a great start, but a good chunk of the audience who bought their previous LP showed up and helped the new album reach #27 and go gold.

ReduxReview:  This one was a head scratcher for me. After gaining a big mainstream audience with their own brand of catchy pop/rock, the band amped up the folk-rock part of their sound to create an album that was meatier and darker. There were shades of Americana along with British Isles folk on huge sounding rock tunes like this one. It seemed the band was out to make some kind of statement rather than making a palatable follow-up to a mainstream hit record. It was like they were trying to be the American U2. While that is commendable with the album having some solid, mature tracks, the thing they forgot about was to add a little something that would keep pop fans who loved their previous hits interested. I mean, even U2 had a knack of tossing some hooky tunes. This song was able to get good airplay at Rock, but this was just not gonna make it at Pop. It was dark, brooding, folky, and nothing like quirky upbeat Hooters of "Day by Day" or "And We Danced." Why they chose to make this a single is a mystery. There was just no way this was going to be a hit. They probably didn't care, but it certainly wasn't the way to maintain a successful, long career.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Rap group Down Low recorded a version of this song for their 1997 album It Ain't Over. Down Low was formed in Germany in 1995. Although considered a German group, it was fronted by two Americans, Joe Thompson and Darren Tucker. Their first album, Visions, arrived in 1996 with its first single, "Visions of Life," hitting #19 in Germany and #10 in France. Their second album would be their most successful thanks to their remake of "Johnny B." The track would reach #4 in Germany and go Top 10 in a few other countries.


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

"Show Me the Way" by Regina Belle

Song#:  3195
Date:  07/18/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  68
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  New Jersey-born Belle began singing in church as a child and her love of music grew throughout her school years. After graduating high school, Belle decided to study opera for a while before attending Rutgers where she began singing jazz. It was while singing with the college's jazz ensemble that she impressed a local DJ who then got her in touch with the manager of the R&B group The Manhattans. It seems they were looking for a female vocalist and Belle fit the bill. She began to tour with them and that led to her being featured on two of the group's tracks on their 1986 album Back to Basics, including the #42 R&B single "Where Did We Go Wrong." Her own recording contract followed and in 1987 she released her debut album All By Myself. This song was the LP's first single and it became a big hit at R&B reaching #2. It did well enough to cross over to the pop chart where it hung around for a couple of months. A second single, "So Many Tears," would get to #11 R&B, but miss the Pop chart. The album would sell well getting to #14 R&B/#85 Pop. It was a solid start to Belle's career.

ReduxReview:  Belle came along at the right time. Anita Baker had broken through with her more sophisticated jazz/R&B/pop hybrid sound and I think it helped give Belle and this track a chance. Indeed it made its way up to #2 at R&B and Belle was tagged as a rising star. The song was quite good and Belle sold it well with her remarkable voice. I'm guessing it leaned a little to much towards R&B for pop radio, but those that were able to discover it certainly got a treat.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  By the time Belle hooked up with The Manhattans, their career on the charts was in decline. They hadn't scored a Top 10 at R&B since 1983's #4 "Crazy" and their last big crossover hit was 1980's "Shining Star" (#4 R&B/#5 Pop). Following their Back to Basics album, which featured Belle, lead singer Gerald Alston left for a solo career. The group then found themselves off the Columbia Records roster. They would stay together and return with a new lead singer and an indie album three years later, but it didn't make much of an impression. The Manhattans would continue to tour over the years in various forms and line-ups including one with Alston. Alston's solo career was brief, but successful. Over the course of four albums between '88 and '94, he scored three R&B Top 10 hits.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

"Say You Really Want Me" by Kim Wilde

Song#:  3194
Date:  07/18/1987
Debut:  89
Peak:  44
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Wilde scored her first and only US #1 hit with a cover of The Supremes' 1966 #1 "You Keep Me Hangin' On." The single was from her fifth album Another Step. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. The tune seemed to be shaping up as another Top 40 entry for Wilde, but then it suddenly stopped short of that mark. By this point in time the album had already peaked at #40 and this single didn't do much to further sales. A third single, "Another Step (Closer to You)", a duet with British R&B singer Junior ("Mama Used to Say"), was released but it failed to chart.

ReduxReview:  It wasn't necessarily a bad idea to give this song a second chance (see below) mainly because there wasn't another surefire hit on the album and it followed in the dance-pop footsteps of "You Keep Me Hangin' On." However, it still wasn't a very strong single contender. I think what might have helped would have been to get a big name remixer to step in and overhaul the track. That might have pushed the tune further up the chart. While I liked the track, it was a little weak for a single. I actually thought the title track was a far better contender, but as a third single it didn't get any consideration.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was originally recorded for the 1986 film Running Scared starring Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. The movie's soundtrack had already generated two hit singles, "Sweet Freedom" by Michael McDonald (#7) and "Man Size Love" by Klymaxx (#15), and this Wilde song was selected to be a third single. On initial release, the track was able to reach #32 on the Dance chart, but failed to reach the Pop chart. When it came time to follow-up "You Keep Me Hangin' On," this song was given a second chance. It did much better getting close to the Top 40, but it still failed to become a significant hit.


Monday, July 13, 2020

"Making Love in the Rain" by Herb Alpert

Song#:  3193
Date:  07/18/1987
Debut:  90
Peak:  35
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary, Quiet Storm

Pop Bits:  Alpert's second single from his album Keep Your Eye on Me, "Diamonds," became his first Pop Top 10 hit since his 1979 #1 instrumental "Rise." The song also got to #1 at both R&B and Dance. It helped that he had a bit of star power behind it with Jam & Lewis writing/producing and Janet Jackson supplying vocals along with Lisa Keith. For a follow-up, this quiet storm ballad was released. Like the previous single, it was a Jam & Lewis creation that also featured Jackson and Keith (this time around Keith took on lead vocals while Jackson did background vocals). While the track would do well at R&B reaching #7, it did only medium business at AC (#21) and Pop where it just eked out a Top 40 showing. Still, it helped sell a few more copies of the album, which had just reached the gold mark a month earlier. The song would be Alpert's last to reach the Pop and AC chart.

ReduxReview:  I think this quiet storm track was just a little too sleepy for pop radio, but it flourished at R&B where the moody tune was a fit for the format. Jam & Lewis created a nice 80s vibe with their production and Keith's vocals fit the song well. Of course all that Alpert had to do was put some tooting noises around in places and provide a solo section. He got sole top billing, but then again it was his project and his label (A&M). I like the track, but almost wish it would have gone to another Jam & Lewis produced artist. It might have turned out better. Still, this was a good selection for Alpert's foray into modern 80s music; however, I prefer Alpert's 60s LPs with his Tijuana Brass.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Alpert would continue to release albums over the years experimenting with various styles. His 1988 album Under a Spanish Moon would lean towards Latin music and even featured a trumpet concerto he commissioned. He returned to pop/R&B with 1989's My Abstract Heart and got a #59 R&B entry with the instrumental "3 O'Clock Jump." Hip-hop and techno was explored on 1991's North on South St., which generated another R&B chart instrumental with the Grammy-nominated title track (#40). In 1992, he recorded a jazz album called Midnight Sun. It was his last album on his own A&M label, which he had sold and finally left soon after releasing the LP. Alpert continued to push out albums and along the way added five more Grammy nominations to his total. He would win his eighth Grammy in 2013 for his album Steppin' Out, on which he collaborated with his wife, Brazil '66 vocalist Lani Hall. The LP won for Best Pop Instrumental Album.


Sunday, July 12, 2020

"Who's That Girl" by Madonna

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3192
Date:  07/11/1987
Debut:  43
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Right on the heels of three #1s and two Top 10s from her third album True Blue, Madonna was ready with new music for consumption. This time it was in the form of songs from a movie soundtrack. The screwball comedy Who's That Girl would be Madonna's third starring role in a film and of course it provided an opportunity to make more money for Madonna, the movie studio, and her label via a soundtrack album. Madonna would record four songs for the film, two co-written and co-produced with Stephen Bray and two with Patrick Leonard, which included this first single. The song debuted just outside the Pop Top 40 and then headed straight to #1. It would be Madonna's sixth single to top the chart and in doing so she took the lead in the 80s for most #1s in the decade. She also became the first female artist to score six #1s. Even though the album had five tracks by other artists, including Scritti Politti and Club Nouveau, the soundtrack was credited to Madonna. It reached #7 and would be a platinum seller. The song would get a Grammy nod for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song.

ReduxReview:  Madonna's previous single, "La Isla Bonita," had a bit of a Spanish influence to it, so it was a bit surprising that she would continue that on this next single, especially when it had nothing to do with the movie. I guess it was just one of the many phases that Madonna went through. I wasn't the biggest fan of "La Isla Bonita," but it was far better than this track. I'd easily put this last on a list that ranked Madonna's #1s. It would most likely be last for Top 10s as well. It is definitely one of her most forgettable hits. It played like an extension of "Bonita," but less interesting or even committed. It sounded like a tossed together one-off track, which it basically was - "hey, I need a couple songs for a movie, bring something to the studio and we'll figure it out." It ended up being a hit thanks to Madonna's star power at the time and associated tour (and most likely not due to the film...), but when was the last time you heard this song? Or even wanted to? Musically, it was a dip in the road for Madonna and it would take her over two years before she would set aside all the movie and other fame crap and return with music that was profound and passionate.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Madonna's film track record was 50/50 with 1985's Desperately Seeking Susan being a hit and 1986's Shanghai Surprise tanking. She needed to rebound with something good to help better establish her viability as a box office draw. Who's That Girl seemed like the ticket with Madonna capitalizing on her comedic acting skills. Unfortunately, both critics and film goers weren't impressed and the movie became Madonna's second bomb in a row. She would end up "winning" the Golden Raspberry award for Worst Actress. Madonna's next film was in the 1989 ensemble comedy Bloodhounds of Broadway. It barely eked out any money at the box office. However, she would finally dig herself out of the acting hole with 1990's Dick Tracy.