Saturday, September 26, 2020

"Hourglass" by Squeeze

Song#:  3269
Date:  09/19/1987
Debut:  81
Peak:  15
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This British band was last on the US Pop chart in 1981 with the #49 "Tempted." It was from their fourth album East Side Story, which made it to #41. Their next LP, Sweets from a Stranger, would get to #32, but it failed to generate a Pop chart single. Those results along with member conflicts, negative press, and touring stress led to the breakup of the band. Founding members and main songwriters Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford then decided to work as a duo. Appropriately named Difford & Tilbrook, the pair released a self-titled album in 1984. It didn't make much of an impression and failed to chart. In 1985, Squeeze reformed to perform at a charity event. The reception they received was so positive that the band decided to take that momentum into the studio and record a new album. Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti would be issued out in 1986. While it didn't featured any major hits, the LP did chart in the UK (#31) and the US (#61). Squeeze moved forward and then recorded the album Babylon and On. This track was issued out as the first single and it caught on cracking the Pop Top 20 while reaching #22 at Rock. It would end up being the band's biggest hit in the US. The hit drove the album to #36. The results were nearly the same back at home in the UK where the song reached #16 and the album #14.

ReduxReview:  This quirky song was a lot of fun, especially when paired with the video (see below). I loved the arrangement and the fast-paced chorus. It was hooky and memorable and I bought the single. Sadly, this song doesn't get played much anymore. It has been ages since I heard it anywhere. Playing it now makes me want to revisit the Squeeze catalog and get a few songs in my playlists. I know for true Squeeze fans and critics, this song wasn't necessarily a fave, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was loaded with illusions and effects and it became quite popular on MTV, which most likely helped it along on the Pop chart. The concept was inspired by the surreal works of artist Salvador Dali. It was directed by British comedian/actor/singer Ade Edmondson. Edmondson became well-known thanks to the early 80s TV shows The Comic Strip Presents... and The Young Ones. On The Comic Strip he helped develop a metal band parody called Bad News. Edmondson would serve as the lead singer and guitarist. The band became popular enough that a self-titled debut album was released in 1987 along with a follow-up in 1988. Edmondson would appear in many TV shows and films over the years and direct music videos for other artists including The Pogues and 10,000 Maniacs. Back in 1985, Edmondson married comedian/screenwriter/actress Jennifer Saunders. She was also featured on The Comic Strip along with The Young Ones, but would later become hugely famous as creator/writer/star of Absolutely Fabulous.


Friday, September 25, 2020

"You Win Again" by Bee Gees

Song#:  3268
Date:  09/19/1987
Debut:  82
Peak:  75
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Of all the artists that got caught up in the disco backlash of '79/'80 perhaps none caught the brunt of it more than the Bee Gees. By the late 70s they were one of the biggest acts in music. From '77 through to '79, the trio scored six consecutive #1 hits. There was no reason to think that their success wouldn't continue in the 80s, but when disco died, the trio practically became poster children for the backlash. Records were burned and radio stations refused to play their music. Effects were immediate. In the summer of '79, the band was at #1 with "Love You Inside Out" and the associated album Spirits Have Flown had topped the chart. Their next album, 1981's Living Eyes practically died upon release (#41) with its first single, "He's a Liar," stopping at #30. They then worked on the 1983 soundtrack to Staying Alive, which made it to #6, but their single from the LP "The Woman in You" stopped at #24. Nothing was working for them so the brothers stepped away for a bit with all three of them recording solo or soundtrack projects. By 1986, the brothers decided to get back together to give it another go. They switched over to Warner Bros. Records and recorded their seventeenth studio album, E-S-P, with producer Arif Mardin. The LP was finished in the late summer of '87 with this first single getting released. Despite it's decidedly non-disco/dance feel, it seems that the Bee Gees were still persona non grata with US radio stations with many ignoring the track. It stopped low on the Pop chart while getting to #50 at AC. With little support, the song and album (#96) became their lowest charting efforts since 1974. While the trio received a cold shoulder from the US, in other countries this song kicked off their comeback (see below).

ReduxReview:  It was a real shame that this song wasn't really given a chance in the US. After years of trying to overcome the effects of "disco sucks," which included a lack of direction, subpar material, and mediocre solo discs, the brothers finally started to get their act back together again after a needed hiatus. This hooky track with an indelible drum beat/sound was a terrific track to reintroduce the trio for the late 80s. It was a solid pop song that had no shades of dance/disco or even the brothers' trademark high falsetto vocals. The rest of the world got it, but in the US it was unfairly ignored due to the still-strong disco stigma. I liked the song well enough to purchase the album. It had a few other good tracks including the beautiful, haunting ballad "Angela."

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Radio stations and listeners in the US may not have been ready yet for a Bee Gees return, but the story was different in other territories. In the UK, this song became their fifth #1. With that result, the Bee Gees became the first group to score a #1 hit in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The album also did well reaching #5 and going platinum. The song would hit #1 in at least five other countries and reach the Top 10 in several others. The song would earn the brothers the 1987 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. The only place it tanked was the US, which both disappointed and angered the trio as they felt they couldn't get a fair shake from radio stations who were still reluctant to play Bee Gees material.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

"The One I Love" by R.E.M.

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3267
Date:  09/19/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  9
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  Over the course of four critically lauded albums, R.E.M. continued to build their audience to the point where their 1986 album Life's Rich Pageant would hit #21 and be their first to be certified gold. They accomplished this without having a significant single on the Pop chart (their best effort to-date was the #78 "Radio Free Europe" in 1983). The increased popularity of the band along with the gold album generated anticipation for their fifth album Document. It would be the first of six LPs on which the band would work with producer Scott Litt, who helped put a more crisp, mainstream sound to the band's tracks. This first single got things kicked off and it did well at Rock reaching #2. Over on the Pop chart, the song made a steady climb until it finally became R.E.M.'s first Top 10 hit. That result helped the album also become their first Top 10 reaching #10. Once again their fan base grew and the album became their first to reach platinum status.

ReduxReview:  The band's first three albums were definitely alt-rock affairs that included some lo-fi production and Michael Stipes' mumbling, unintelligible singing over terrific songs that were not necessarily written for the Pop chart. That started to change on Life's Rich Pageant when producer Don Gehman framed the band's more focused tunes in modern production. Scott Litt then continued the transformation with the band also advancing their songwriting skills. It culminated in this first single that was their most focused and direct attempt to create a hooky, radio-ready track that would satisfy critics and old fans while bring on board a whole new audience. It was a definite blast of power from the band that showed that they were more than ready to take their music and their career to the next level.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Much in the way that The Police's "Every Breath You Take" was mistakenly viewed as love song (it was basically about an obsessive stalker), this R.E.M. track was also taken as a love song, which was a misnomer. At its heart, the tune was about someone who uses people over and over. So while radio listeners would dedicate this song to one's that they love ("this one goes out to the one I love"), they seem to dismiss the second line ("a simple prop to occupy my time"). However, the misinterpretation never bothered lead singer/songwriter Michael Stipe. He though the lyrics were quite brutal and didn't really want to record the song, but then listeners took it as some kind of love song, which then made Stipe feel a bit better about the track.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

"Boys Night Out" by Timothy B. Schmit

Song#:  3266
Date:  09/19/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  25
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Former Eagle Schmit kicked off a solo career in 1982 by contributing the remake "So Much in Love" to the soundtrack for the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The song got to #59 and was later included on Schmit's 1984 debut solo album Playin' It Cool. Over the next couple of years he would help out a lot of other artists, but finally found time and inspiration to get back into the studio to record a second solo disc. It would be titled simply Timothy B and this first single would get issued out. It got some attention at Rock reaching #17 while cracking the Top 30 on the Pop chart. It would end up being his biggest solo hit. The album would sell a minor few copies and reach #106. Schmit's third solo album, 1990's Tell Me the Truth failed to generate any charting tracks and it disappeared quickly. By 1994, he was back with a reunited Eagles and has remained with them since. Along the way he would record a few indie solo discs.

ReduxReview:  This song got near the Top 20, yet I don't remember it at all. It's an interesting track. The hi-gloss 80s production is a highlight and the song itself wasn't too different from some of the songs being tossed out by fellow former Eagles Glenn Frey and Don Henley. Frankly, if the band had stayed together, this could have been something that they might have considered recording. I like the track, but I'm a bit surprised it got so high on the chart as I wouldn't have pegged it for hit potential. While Schmit's solo career would never stack up to the heights reached by Henley or Frey, at least he did get a pretty good track on the chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  For a three-year period beginning in 1983, Schmit would tour with Jimmy Buffett at a member of Buffett's Coral Reefer Band. Apparently at a 1985 show in Cincinnati, Buffett commented about members of the audience who continually showed up to his concerts usually wearing Hawaiian shirts and parrot hats. He compared them to the "Deadheads" that followed The Grateful Dead. That's when Schmit yelled over at Buffett and said that the fans were then like "parrot heads." Buffett liked that and tossed the phrase out over to the audience. The name was quickly embraced and it stuck. Followers of Buffett then called themselves Parrot Heads and by 1989 the first Parrot Head club was founded. Years later, children of Parrot Heads and younger new fans got the nickname of being Parakeets.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

"We Should Be Sleeping" by Eddie Money

Song#:  3265
Date:  09/19/1987
Debut:  96
Peak:  90
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Money's album Can't Hold Back was his first to generate three Top 40 singles, which included his biggest Pop hit, the #4 "Take Me Home Tonight." With three tracks doing well, the label decided to try for four and released this follow-up. It didn't do too bad at Rock where it topped out at #18, but it was virtually a non-starter at Pop spending a mere three weeks near the bottom of the chart. However, the results didn't really matter as the album had been certified platinum a few weeks earlier. It was Money's fourth (and final) studio album to reach the platinum sales level.

ReduxReview:  This song is more rockin' than Money's previous three Top 40 efforts, which skewed towards pop and were composed by outside writers. Money co-wrote this one and it showcases his own rock style well, but it just wasn't as mainstream catchy as his bigger hits. It was a good fit for Rock radio, but it wasn't really suited for Pop and indeed it went nowhere. Frankly, there was no reason to release this single. It could have been left as an airplay-only Rock track, but I'm sure Money's label wanted to eke out as much cash as they could from a hit album and pushed it out. In the process I'm sure they probably spent more money releasing it than what the single brought in. Not a wise choice.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Another track on the album, "Stranger in a Strange Land," was co-written by Money with Henry Small and Tom Whitlock. Small had been a member of the band Prism from 1981-84. During that time, the band got two singles on the Pop chart including the #39 "Don't Let Him Know." After the band split up, Small got to work with The Who's bassist John Entwistle on what would have been Entwistle's sixth solo LP, The Rock. Small was hired in to handle lead vocal duties on the album, which was recorded around the same time as Money's Can't Hold Back. "Stranger in a Strange Land" was recorded by Money and by Entwistle/Small for their respective projects. Since Money is listed as co-writer, it is assumed that Money was the first to record the song and then Small took it over to Entwistle. It seemed like the two versions were going to be in competition, but in the end that didn't happen because due to some legal issues, Entwistle's album was blocked from being released. The LP stayed in the vault for ten years before it was finally issued out in 1996.


Monday, September 21, 2020

"Causing a Commotion" by Madonna

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3264
Date:  09/12/1987
Debut:  41
Peak:  2
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Madonna's third major film, Who's That Girl, was not a box office success, but its associated soundtrack became a #7 platinum album thanks to the #1 title track and this second single, which nearly topped the Pop chart. It would spend three weeks in the runner-up spot while getting to #1 Dance and #37 AC. The song was written by Stephen Bray and Madonna. Supposedly the lyrics were inspired by Madonna's relationship with her then-husband Sean Penn. Penn had a reputation for violent outbursts, especially towards the press, which culminated with Penn assaulting a photographer in the summer of '87. Penn would serve 33 days in jail for the incident. Madonna would file for divorce by the end of the year, but would later withdraw the request. The couple would finally divorce in '89.

ReduxReview:  While this song was definitely better than "Who's That Girl," it still was just a basic Madonna track. It was as if "Into the Groove" and "Lucky Star" got together and had a baby. It's not a bad little tune with its heavier bass line and catchy chorus, but overall it was just an average Madonna track that was a hit at the time yet has kind of been forgotten about. I certainly wouldn't include it on a list of my favorite Madonna songs, however I don't mind listening to it when it rolls up on a playlist.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Another song on the soundtrack album, "The Look of Love," was released as a third single in a few territories. It was not issued out in the US. The song performed fairly well in some countries including the UK where it topped out at #9. The song was an original written by Madonna and Patrick Leonard. It was not a remake of the Burt Bacharach/Hal Davis tune of the same name that they wrote for the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale. That song was first recorded as an instrumental by jazz musician Stan Getz in 1966. The vocal version was performed by Dusty Springfield and featured in the film. It would be released as a single and reach #22 on the Pop chart. Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 would record the song in 1968 and their version reached #4. One other artist would make the Pop chart with the tune. A version by Isaac Hayes would get to #79 in 1971. It did not make the R&B chart. Madonna has said that "The Look of Love" was inspired by the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window. The loving look that James Stewart gave Grace Kelly in the film is what gave Madonna inspiration.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

"Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2

Rated 10 Alert!

Song#:  3263
Date:  09/12/1987
Debut:  70
Peak:  13
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Irish band's album The Joshua Tree was turning into a massive success thanks to two #1 hits including "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." For a third single, this LP-opening track was selected. The song would just miss out on the Rock and Pop Top 10s peaking at #11 and #13, respectively. Just a couple of weeks after this single debuted, the album would be certified for selling over 3 million copies in the US. By the end of the year it would reach the 4 million mark. In September of 1995, it would hit diamond status (10+million).

ReduxReview:  Apparently, this song took the longest to complete during the recording sessions. They kept making changes and it got to the point where producer Daniel Lanois wanted to "accidentally" erase what the band had recorded and do a forced start-from-scratch thing. Luckily, he didn't get to do that and eventually the band came up with one of their most iconic concert songs. When I got the Joshua Tree album, this first track started and I was just blown away. I remember that I almost didn't listen to the rest of the LP right away as I wanted to immediately repeat the song. It gave me chills. It still does. The song still resides near the top on my list of faves from U2. Just brilliant.


Trivia:  For this song's associated video, the band decided to stage a little rooftop concert (a la The Beatles' Let It Be roof performance). The location selected was atop the Republic Liquor store at 7th and Main in Los Angeles. Although an "impromptu" performance where permits and other things were virtually ignored, some prep was involved because they didn't know exactly what would happen. Or if even anyone would notice or be interested. The band's crew reinforced the roof of the store in case the band somehow got stormed by fans and a generator was set up in the event that power would be shut down by law enforcement. On March 27, 1987, U2 were set to perform and local radio stations mentioned the mini-event. Crowds gathered, traffic stopped, authorities came in to talk with the U2 reps about safety issues, and over it all U2 began to play "Where the Streets Have No Name." They ended up playing that song four times, but also performed four other tunes. The thing was, the band did want to have police show up and shut down the performance for dramatic effect, but just when they thought they'd get the hook, the police granted an extension to keep going. Most of it all was captured in the video just as it happened. Oddly, although the band played live, the film was edited to go with the studio version of the song. The video ended up winning an MTV Music Video award for Best Performance Video.