Saturday, September 12, 2020

"Mony Mony" by Billy Idol

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3255
Date:  09/05/1987
Debut:  72
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Idol's 1984 album Rebel Yell was a success in the US reaching #6 and eventually going double-platinum thanks mainly to the #4 hit "Eyes Without a Face." In his UK homeland, the album didn't do quite that well. It got to #36 and failed to generate a Top 10 hit. To help boost Idol prior to his next LP, a "mini" album of seven remixed tracks from Rebel Yell and his debut EP Don't Stop was assembled and issued out in the UK and other countries as Vital Idol. It ended up selling well getting to #7 in the UK, however the album wasn't released in the US. After the platinum success of his 1986 LP Whiplash Smile, Idol's label then decided to push out a revised edition Vital Idol in the US. The LP contained a remix of "Mony Mony," which first appeared on Don't Stop. The original version was issued out as a single in 1981, but it failed to make the US chart (bubbling under at #107). Vital Idol provided an opportunity to try the song again as a single, but instead of using the new remix version, a live recording of the song, which was not on the album, was pushed out for release. The single began to catch on and eventually it became Idol's first and only song to top the US Pop chart. It also got to #27 at Rock. Even though the live version wasn't on Vital Idol, the single helped promote the LP and it ended up becoming Idol's third US platinum record topping out at #10. Back in the UK, the single made it to #7 with the updated version of Vital Idol getting to #41. However, a new 1988 compilation titled 11 of the Best would be issued out in the UK and other countries (not the US) and it would contain the live single version of "Mony Mony." It would be a platinum seller in the UK getting to #2.

ReduxReview:  I find it funny that this live version went to #1 because I don't remember it all. I only remember the studio version. At least that is what got played on my local radio stations. The live version is actually not too bad. The performance is solid, the production (which was probably enhanced in the studio) was beefy, the background singers were great, and Idol sounded terrific and really into it. I still prefer the studio version, but this is a rare live track where the excitement of the moment is nearly captured.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by Tommy James & the Shondells. Their original version would reach #3 in 1968. It was written by James along with Bo Gentry, Ritchie Cordell, and Bobby Bloom. The odd title came about when James was wanting to write a song with a catchy, kind of nonsensical title like "Bony Maroney." When he and Cordell were in a hotel room trying to finish off a tune, James got frustrated in trying to come up with a title, so he took a little break and went out on the room's balcony. He looked up at a nearby building and saw the big logo for the Mutual of New York company - M.O.N.Y. Inspiration from high places. 2) Oddly enough, when this song reached the #1 spot, it replaced a remake of another Tommy James hit. Tiffany's version of the Tommy James & the Shondells hit "I Think We're Alone Now" had just spent two weeks at #1 when Idol's remake kicked it out of the top spot and spent a week there.


Friday, September 11, 2020

"I Think We're Alone Now" by Tiffany

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3254
Date:  08/29/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Tiffany Darwish began singing when she was just four. Bitten by the music bug, she continued to work on her voice and by the time she was 10 she was out performing in shows and at clubs. Initially, Tiffany was singing country material and got to perform with stars like Ralph Emery and George Jones. In 1984, Tiffany was recording demo songs at a studio owned by producer George Tobin. After hearing her sing, Tobin decided to try and help out the young teen. She ended up on the hit talent show Star Search (under the name Tiffany Renee) and made it to the 1985 finals in the Teen Vocalist category where she lost to Melissa Moultrie. The following year, Tiffany (via her mother) signed a management/production contract with Tobin, who gets the teen signed to MCA Records. A self-titled debut album was recorded and an initial single, "Danny," was released earlier in '87. It failed to chart and the album began to languish with MCA paying little attention to it or Tiffany. Tobin then pushed the label to promote the young artist and so they got her booked on a tour of malls/shopping centers during the summer. Tiffany would sing to pre-recorded tracks, interact with the crowds, and then sign albums at whatever record store was at the mall. It ended up being quite successful with the teens who hung out at the malls taking notice. MCA did too and decided to give Tiffany's album another chance. They released this second single, which slowly caught on and eventually reached the top of the Pop chart. It also got to #23 Dance and #38 AC. The hit drew attention to the album and it also started to take off. Tiffany's mall tour would often be the butt of jokes, but in the end the ploy worked and it helped to make her a star.

ReduxReview:  Hoo-boy. This one is a bit hard for me to rate. On one hand, I have always disliked this remake. The arrangement was awful and it sounded tinny and cheap. It also didn't showcase Tiffany's vocals in any positive way. If Kidz Bop had existed back then, this is probably what it would have sounded like. On the other hand, the mall tour was a near-genius move and this song fit that promo perfectly. A song by a teen, for teens whose parents would fondly remember the original (see below). Still, it was marketing over content and I didn't buy into it. Tobin was a pretty good producer (Kim Carnes' "More Love" and Smokey Robinson's "Being with You"), but his expertise was not synthpop dance tunes and it definitely showed here. While I appreciate the "making of a star" marketing surrounding the song, it's remains a sub-par remake.  (Note: This entry is slightly out of order because of an erroneously set publish date. Ah well...things happen.)

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by Tommy James & the Shondells. Their classic version reached #4 in 1967. Besides Tiffany, only one other artist has thus far reached the Pop chart with a version of the song. In 1977, the California power pop band The Rubinoos got to #45 with their take on the tune. Over in the UK, the female vocal group Girls Aloud remade the song in 2006. Their single reached #4 on the UK chart.  2) The video for this song was shot by Tiffany's manager/producer George Tobin. It is basically just scenes of Tiffany performing the song at various malls on her tour. As the tour progressed, word about Tiffany spread and by the end of the tour, which is when most segments of the music video were shot, she was attracting sizable crowds. The success of the mall tour was on full display on MTV.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

"I've Been in Love Before" by Cutting Crew

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3253
Date:  09/05/1987
Debut:  75
Peak:  9
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  The English band's debut album spawned a #1 hit with "(I Just) Died in Your Arms," the lead single from their debut album Broadcast. A second single, "One for the Mockingbird," didn't do as well only being able to crack the Top 40 (#38). Still, the label decided to try one more time and pushed out this ballad. It was a good decision as the song got the band back in the Pop Top 10 while also peaking at #2 on the AC chart. The hit may have played a part in getting the band a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. Unfortunately, the song would prove to be the band's final one to make the Pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  The band certainly got lucky with this one. It really should have been the second single. If it had been, the track might have peaked even higher. Still, it was strong enough to overcome the disappointing results of "One for the Mockingbird" to become their second (and last) US Pop Top 10. It was a lovely little tune that was nicely produced and performed. I can't say that it really grabbed my attention, but if it came on the radio I would listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In their UK homeland, this song was the second single released from the album. It didn't do so well only reaching #31. Due to that result, the label then chose "One for the Mockingbird" as the second single in the US. It didn't work out all that well with the song scratching the Top 40. So the label then took a chance on "I've Been in Love Before" in the US to see what might happen. It ended up doing very well and its hit status then prompted the label to reissue the song back in the UK. On its second go 'round, the track did a little better, but still could only manage a #24 showing. Besides the US and Canada, where the song peaked at #8, the single did only moderate business in other countries.


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

"I Won't Forget You" by Poison

Song#:  3252
Date:  09/05/1987
Debut:  87
Peak:  13
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In, peaked at #3 in May of '87 thanks to their #9 hit "Talk Dirty to Me." A follow-up single, "I Want Action," didn't do quite as well peaking at #50, but this next single would get them back near the Pop Top 10. Just as this single was debuting on the chart, the album would reach double-platinum status. The song would  help sell more albums and eventually it would go triple-platinum. Strangely, despite their style of music and big exposure at MTV, none of the three singles would get on the Rock chart.

ReduxReview:  "I Want Action" wasn't a bad follow-up, but it just didn't catch on like their previous hit. So for their next release the band went the safer route and issued out this more mainstream-leaning power ballad. It worked out well for them with the track nearly butting up against the Top 10. It probably should have gotten inside the Top 10 for at least a quick week, but the #13 result was still very good. The mid-tempo track wasn't like the slow, erupting power ballads that other hard rock bands were doing and I think that served the song well. The track would kind of get overshadowed by their bigger hits, but it ranks among their best efforts.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  As the band's career was taking off, they got an opportunity to contribute a song to a movie soundtrack. The band did a cover of "Rock and Roll All Nite," a song originally recorded by Kiss. Their version appeared on the band's 1975 third album Dressed to Kill. It was released as the lead singles and it became their second song to crack the Pop chart peaking at #68. However, later in '75 Kiss released their concert album titled Alive!, which contained a live version of the song. It was issued out as a single and this time around it became a much bigger hit getting to #12. It quickly became a classic anthem for the band. Kiss had been gaining in popularity with their first three albums, however, the hit broke the band wide and Alive! became their first album to make the Top 10. 


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

"That's What Love Is All About" by Michael Bolton

Song#:  3251
Date:  09/05/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  19
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  While Bolton was having some success as a songwriter (Laura Branigan's #12 "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," for one), his attempts to get a career of his own were not going well. He tried the band approach and solo discs, but those efforts only resulted a couple of minor chart entries. Still, Columbia Records seemed to believe in Bolton and sponsored a third album (his fifth solo effort overall) and he came up with The Hunger. This first single got things started and it turned into a slow burner that took its time getting established in various markets across the US. It would take three months for the song to finally peak on the AC chart where it topped out at #3. It would then get inside the Pop Top 20. While the single wasn't a major smash, it did well enough to finally establish Bolton as a viable solo artist.

ReduxReview:  The problem I've always had with Bolton is that I think he over-sings things. He should have stayed in the hard/arena rock genre, but instead he moved into MOR AC/Pop and just mowed over anything in his path. He can write a good tune, but I prefer when someone else sings them. This is a good example. The song is a nice, well-written AC ballad. However, Bolton sings it like he's being tortured. When he sings "baby that's what love is all about," it seems to me someone has him by the balls and right when he sings "looooove," they squeeze. In other words, it is forced and it is too much. His more upbeat, rock-leaning tunes sounded better, but he practically killed and buried ballads like this one. A big swath of people seemed to love his approach and bought his records, but I was never one of them.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Thanks to the connections Bolton had made over the years, The Hunger boasted some big name help. Members of Journey, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain along with Randy Jackson made appearances with Cain co-writing three songs and producing four. Diane Warren co-wrote a tune with Bolton. Singer/songwriter Martin Briley co-wrote two tracks. Keith Diamond (of Billy Ocean fame) produced four tracks including this first single. Bruce Kulick, who was previously in the band Blackjack with Bolton and was a then-current member of Kiss, played guitar on a couple of tracks. James Ingram sang backup on a pair of songs. It doesn't always work out when an up-n-coming artist ends up doing a sort of "all-star" album, but Bolton was able to kickstart his career with The Hunger.


Monday, September 7, 2020

"Betcha Say That" by Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine

Song#:  3250
Date:  09/05/1987
Debut:  92
Peak:  36
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Estefan and her band got their fourth Pop Top 10 hit with "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" (#5), the lead single from their album Let It Loose. They were on a roll and decided to try and keep things going with this follow-up single. Unfortunately, it wasn't what listeners wanted and the song stalled after getting inside the Pop Top 40. It did only slightly better at AC (#19) and Dance (#22). It was a bump in the road for Estefan and the band. They needed something to perform much better than this if the album was going to approach the multi-platinum level of their previous LP Primitive Love.

ReduxReview:  This was a pleasant little tune. yet I wouldn't have selected it as the LP's second single. It might have worked okay as a wrap-up single, but as a follow-up to a fairly big hit it just wasn't the right choice. There wasn't much to the bouncy ditty. The chorus was slight and there were a lot of production touches that were added to make up for that. Frankly, it was like a sequel to the band's "Falling in Love (Uh-Oh)," which didn't perform all that well either. Estefan and the band were very lucky that they still had material on the album that was strong enough to overcome this lackluster single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The production credit for the album (minus one song) was listed as by Emilio & the Jerks, which consisted of Emilio Estefan, Lawrence Dermer, Joe Galdo, and Rafael Vigil. The latter three wrote (or co-wrote) the majority of the band's Primitive Love album and half of Let It Loose. Although not credited, it seems they also did production work on Primitive Love. The production credit on that album went to Emilio Estefan. While the band's popularity was soaring, not all was totally rosy behind the scenes (naturally). There were accusations that the songwriting/production trio did all the work while Estefan contributed very little, if anything, and the trio were not compensated very well. According to a Rolling Stone article, It all came to a head before the 1988 Grammys where Emilio & the Jerks were nominated in the Producer of the Year category for their work on Let It Loose (they would lose to Narada Michael Walden). Estefan wanted to sign the trio in a 5-year deal, but it seems the offer didn't work in their favor and they turned it down. After the Grammys, the two factions ended their relationship.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

"You Are the Girl" by The Cars

Song#:  3249
Date:  08/29/1987
Debut:  65
Peak:  17
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  The Boston band had their greatest period of success in the 80s over the course of two studio albums and a hits package, which combined sold over 12 million copies and generated four Pop Top 10s. After a break that saw some members doing their own side solo projects, the band reconvened in the studio to record their sixth album Door to Door. This first single got things started and it did well at Rock reaching #2 on that chart. It also didn't do too bad at AC getting to #12. However, the song wasn't as well-received at Pop where it could only make the Top 20. It was a bit of a disappointment coming on the heels of their most successful period. The song would end up being the band's last to reach the Pop Top 40. 

ReduxReview:  To me, this was the sound of The Cars giving up. The song was not much different from a lot of their other material but the difference was that it just sounded tired. The tune had zero spark. The crunchy new wave production that they had perfected over the years was missing and even Ocasek's vocal sounded like he was bored. Kinda like, "okay, let's trod out something one more time." Which is basically what they did since they broke up after the album. You'd think that after getting a chance to do their own thing on solo projects, the band would return rejuvenated with new ideas and create something different. Instead, it seems they just decided to phone it in and do the regular Cars thing, only not as good. A couple of songs on the album were even ones they wrote years previous, which was kind of a sign that things were not going all that well with the band and their creativity together waning. Despite the disappointing results, The Cars could always take solace that they created some revered classic singles and albums in their career.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was directed by cult filmmaker John Waters. The shoot happened around the time that Waters was filming what would be his first big mainstream movie Hairspray. Cars leader Ric Ocasek ended up with a small part in the film at a beatnik painter. It's unknown which came first, the video or Ocasek's cameo in the film, but it wasn't The Cars' first time working with a more avant-garde director. For the video to their 1984 #20 hit "Hello Again," the band worked with artist Andy Warhol. While Waters' Hairspray wouldn't be a huge box office success, it did become a big cult film that eventually became a Tony-winning musical, which itself was turned into a movie.