Saturday, October 24, 2020

"Motortown" by The Kane Gang

Song#:  3297
Date:  10/17/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  36
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  This English trio first got together in 1982 and quickly developed a sophisti-pop sound that eventually led to them signing with London Records. Their 1985 debut album, The Bad and Lowdown World of the Kane Gang did well in the UK reaching #21 thanks to the #12 hit "Closest Thing to Heaven." The LP got a Stateside release, but it went unnoticed. Their second album, Miracle, did better thanks to this first single. The song would end up cracking the Pop Top 40 while making it to #12 at AC. The minor hit allowed the album to reach the chart, but it stalled at a minor #115. In their UK homeland, the single wouldn't do as well topping out at #45, however, the album sold a few copies and got to #41.

ReduxReview:  I adored this song when it came out. It was a relaxed, slick, jazzy slice of sophisti-pop with a terrific chorus. It had a lovely synthpop production as well. I figured it would be an easy Top 20 hit, but it stopped short. The tune is definitely a lost gem of the decade. I bought the 45 single back in the day, but then when I began to make the switch to CDs, I couldn't find the song. I finally found it on an 80s compilation and was filled with bliss when I got to hear it again. The song gives off such a good vibe, but if you read the lyrics, they get less rosy as the song progresses. It was deceptively happy, much like the industry it talks about. I wish someone would revive this song. It deserves to be rediscovered.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  With the exception of a couple remakes, all the Kane Gang songs were written by members Martin Brammer and Dave Brewis, including this single. After the band dissolved later in '91, Brammer set his sights on writing music for other artists. His first major hit came in 1995 when he co-wrote "Lifted" for the British duo Lighthouse Family. It was the first single from their debut album, Ocean Drive, and it would reach #4 in the UK. The LP would be a #3 multi-platinum seller at home. The single and album would be released in the US, but neither made an impact. Brammer would co-write another Top 10 for the due with 1997's "Raincloud" (#6 UK). Brammer would go on to write songs for artists like Nick Carter, Tina Turner, Sheena Easton, and James Morrison.


Friday, October 23, 2020

"Crazy" by Icehouse

Song#:  3296
Date:  10/17/1987
Debut:  95
Peak:  14
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Since 1980, this Australian band had been having solid success at home gathering a string of hits including four Top 10s. Their success in other countries was spotty including in the US where they could only manage two minor Pop chart entries including 1985's "No Promises," which got to #79 (#7 Rock, #9 Dance). Then came their sixth album Man of Colours. This first single was released and at home it became the band's fifth and biggest to-date Top 10 hit (#4). The song then started to take hold in the US eventually getting to #10 at Rock while cracking the Pop Top 20. The news would get even better with their next single.

ReduxReview:  While this band was extremely popular at home, their music didn't necessarily translate well internationally. They finally mixed the right formula for mainstream success with this song. The whole tune was very good and well-produced, yet it was the hooky chorus with that dreamy chord progression that got them close to pop perfection. The song really should have ducked inside the Top 10, but making the Top 20 was a definite win.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The original video for this song that was shown in Australia was set up to be filmed in one continuous take. Directed by Mark Joffe, the video followed lead singer Iva Davies walking around an abandoned power station while crazy things happen around him like explosions, motorcycle stunts, and even a car crash. For some reason, it was decided that the video wasn't quite right for an international audience and a second one was filmed to be show in places like the US. The second version, directed by John Jopson, was a bit of an homage to the 1971 thriller Play Misty for Me. That film, which starred Jessica Walter and Clint Eastwood, served as Eastwood's first directorial effort. The plot was about a late night DJ who ends up having a causal fling with a woman who had been calling into his show asking for him to play the song "Misty" (originally an instrumental written by Errol Garner and recorded by him in 1955 later made famous in a 1959 vocal version by Johnny Mathis, #12 Pop/#10 R&B). Things go downhill when he tries to end the relationship and she becomes revengeful and dangerous. The film was a critical and box office success with Walter getting a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress in a Drama. While the title referenced "Misty," it was another tune used in the film that would become a major hit. While working on the movie, Eastwood just happen to hear a song on the radio by a new artist named Roberta Flack. He had heard her version of the 1957 Ewan MacColl folk song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," which was included on Flack's 1969 debut album First Take. The LP tanked upon initial release, but after people reacted to the song when used over a love scene in the movie, it was decided a single release was in order. It ended up becoming a major hit reaching #1 Pop/#4 R&B/#1 AC and going gold. In turn, First Take would then hit #1 Pop/#1 R&B and go platinum nearly four years after its original release. The song would then go on to win the Grammy for Record of the Year, the first of two consecutive Record of the Year wins for Flack (the second one was for her hit "Killing Me Softly" #1 Pop/#2 R&B/#2 AC).


Thursday, October 22, 2020

"We'll Be Together" by Sting

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3295
Date:  10/10/1987
Debut:  59
Peak:  7
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Funk Rock

Pop Bits:  Sting's first solo album after the breakup of The Police, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, was a #2 multi-platinum success thanks to a pair of Pop Top 10 hits including the #3 "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free." The success of the album allowed Sting to be more ambitious for his next effort, ...Nothing But the Sun. The release would be a double-LP with songs that spanned various genres such as pop, rock, jazz, reggae, and world music. This first funk-leaning single got things started and it did well becoming Sting's third Pop Top 10 hit. It would also make a bit of a splash at Dance (#17) and Rock (#20) while becoming his second solo song to make the R&B chart (#39). The hit would help the album peak at #9 and eventually it would be a double-platinum seller. It would also receive a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year..

ReduxReview:  This groovy tune was a good one to kick off the album. The hooky track fell in line with recent hits by Peter Gabriel but it sounded distinctly Sting. The production was crisp and it sounded great on the radio. Sting gets a bit of a minus for singing lyrics to another one of his songs at the end (which he'd done before - I don't know why he likes to do that...), but overall it was one of his funkiest jams and a deserved hit.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Sting originally wrote this song for a Japanese beer commercial. He was approached by the Kirin Brewing Company to appear in print ads and a TV commercial for their product. They also asked him to write a song. The company was also specific about the song as they wanted the word "together" to be prominent. In short order, Sting wrote this song. The company loved the track and a commercial was filmed with Sting performing the song and drinking the beer.  2) In 2004, Sting would perform around North America on his Sacred Love Tour. Also on the bill for those shows was Eurythmics' Annie Lennox. During the shows, the pair would do a duet on this song. It was well-received and the pair decided to go into the studio to record a new duet version of the tune. The finished recording would then be included on the soundtrack to the 2004 film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. That film was the sequel to the 2001 hit Bridget Jones's Diary, both of which starred RenĂ©e Zellweger. The sequel was a modest hit in the US barely making back its $40 million budget. However, it was a much bigger hit in other countries and the film would eventually rake in and additional $222 million. The soundtrack would reach #72 on the US chart.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

"Valerie" by Steve Winwood

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3294
Date:  10/10/1987
Debut:  77
Peak:  9
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Winwood's fourth album, Back in the High Life, became a major hit reaching #3 and going triple-platinum thanks to four Pop Top 20 hits including the Grammy-winning #1 "Higher Love." With that album's run wrapped up and a new one yet to be recorded, it was decided that a compilation of Winwood's solo work would be released to cover the gap between LPs. To help spruce up the collection, titled Chronicles, three tracks from Winwood's 1982 LP Talking Back to the Night would get the remix treatment. One of those songs was this first single from the collection. Originally the tune was released as the second single from Talking Back to the Night, but it didn't do well topping out at a low #70 on the Pop chart (#13 Rock). With Winwood's profile greatly expanded, the remix gave new fans a chance to hear the song. The ploy worked with the song reaching the Pop Top 10 while hitting #2 at AC. At Rock, the new remix version would peak at the same #13 as the original. The compilation would make it to #26 and go platinum.

ReduxReview:  This was the rare case where the new remix version surpassed the original. When the remix came out, it was the first time I had heard the song as I wasn't familiar with the original release. I remember thinking - why wasn't this a hit the first time around? Then I heard the original. It was so two-dimensional and cheap sounding in comparison. The remix gave the tune a significant boost and made it sound like an actual record than a demo, which was kind of what the original sounded like. Then it did help that Winwood was hot property at the time the remix was released whereas when the original came out he was in a bit of a slump. I liked the remix version and ended up buying the single. Sometimes a song just needs that extra boost to push it over the finish line and luckily this track finally found its way to hit status.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In 2004, Swedish DJ Eric Prydz would use a sample of "Valerie" for a dance track titled "Call on Me." When Prydz finished the track he actually sent it to Steve Winwood, who ended up liking the track. Winwood then offered to rerecord his vocal part in order for it to sound and fit better within the dance track. Prydz of course accepted and the track was completed. It was released in the fall of 2004 and it became a big hit in Europe reaching many Top 10s while hitting #1 in countries like UK, France, Germany, and Ireland. In the US it proved to be less popular. It only made the US Dance/Club Play chart at #29.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

"Animal" by Def Leppard

Song#:  3293
Date:  10/10/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  19
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  Def Leppard's long-awaited album Hysteria didn't get off to a great start. Its first single, "Women," stalled at a very minor #80 on the Pop chart. It did better at Rock getting to #7, but even that seemed weak coming off of a multi-platinum album (Pyromania) that featured two #1 and two Top 10 Rock tracks. They definitely needed something to do better in the mainstream arena to keep interest in the album going. This next single was released and while it wasn't a major hit, it did far better in kicking off the album. The tune would reach #5 at Rock while becoming the band's third Pop Top 20. It was a solid showing, but things would only get better over the course of the album's next three singles.

ReduxReview:  This was the first single everywhere else except the US and Canada. It should have been the first one here. Had it been, it might have cracked the Top 10. The anticipation built up for a new Def Leppard song might have pushed it further. Instead, we got the far less appealing "Women" to start things and when that song tanked, DJs and programmers were probably not as excited about this song and were slow to get onboard. Luckily, the song was strong enough to break out on its own and it found a home in the Pop Top 20. It was a solid arena rock song and it certainly caught my attention.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Def Leppard was a British band, but they didn't have a lot of luck on the charts at home. Although their first three albums would make the UK Top 30, none of their singles would do better than #41. The story was different across the pond with the band's big arena rock sound a better fit for US hard rock listeners. Their first album went platinum, their second double-platinum, and their third, Pyromania, became a massive success selling over 10 million copies. It also spawned a pair of Pop Top 20 hits and another Top 30 entry. Finally, this single broke the band through to the masses in the UK. The song would become their first Top 10 entry hitting #6. With the band finally established, they would go on to have more hits in their homeland.


Monday, October 19, 2020

"(You're Puttin') A Rush on Me" by Stephanie Mills

Song#:  3292
Date:  10/10/1987
Debut:  85
Peak:  85
Weeks:  2
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Mills scored three consecutive gold albums between 1979 and 1981 thanks to three R&B Top 10s along with the #6 Grammy-winning gold Pop hit "Never Knew Love Like This Before" (#12 R&B/#5 Dance). As the 80s wore on, her fortunes dimmed a bit. A couple of label changes didn't help and only one of her singles make the R&B Top 10. Things began to turn around for her when she signed up with MCA Records. Her self-titled 1985 LP generated her first R&B #1 hit with "I Have Learned to Respect the Power of Love." She then completed her comeback with her next album, If I Were Your Woman. The LP's first single, "Feel Good All Over," topped the R&B chart. The tune failed to make the Pop chart, but this follow-up single did, if only for a couple of weeks. It would be another winner for Mills at R&B getting to #1 while also reaching #23 Dance. The pair of #1s helped the album become Mills' first and only to reach #1 at R&B (#30 Pop).  It would also return Mills to gold level sales. Unfortunately, this would be her last single to make the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This silky mid-tempo jam was a nice vehicle for Mills. It was obvious that her voice was better than the song, but she kept her big pipes in check and it worked perfectly for the tune. The track may have been a bit too subtle for pop radio, but it really should have done much better on the pop chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although Mills would never visit the Pop chart again, her winning streak continued at R&B with her next album, 1989's Home. It would featured two more #1 R&B hits including "Something in the Way (You Make Me Feel)" and the title track, which was a new version of the song Mills originally sang in the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz. The new version featured background vocals by the gospel a cappella sextet Take 6. That group had released their self-titled debut album in 1988. It would go platinum and earn Take 6 three Grammy awards.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

"Learning to Fly" by Pink Floyd

Song#:  3291
Date:  10/10/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  70
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  The last time Pink Floyd had a single on the US Pop chart was back in 1980 with "Run Like Hell," a track from their classic double-LP The Wall. After the massive success of that album, the tour, and the associated 1982 movie, the band attempted to get their twelfth studio album off the ground. The relationship between members Roger Waters and David Gilmour had been rocky since the tour for The Wall and it continued into the studio. Confrontations ensued and by the time the dust settled, Waters had completed and released the 1983 Pink Floyd album The Final Cut with little input or contribution from Gilmour. Both Waters and Gilmour would then release solo albums as questions arose about the fate of Pink Floyd. Eventually Waters would depart with legal entanglements to follow. In the meantime, Gilmour decided to continue on under the Pink Floyd name and record a new album. Titled A Momentary Lapse of Reason, the effort was a departure for Pink Floyd in that it lacked a concept that drew the songs together. Gilmour would also work on a few tracks with outside songwriters. To preview the LP, this first single was released. It became a big hit at Rock reaching #1 and remaining there for three weeks. The success there allowed the song to cross over to Pop, but it would only stick around near the bottom of the chart for a couple of months. Still, the album would get to #3 and by January of '88 it would be certified double-platinum. Eventually it would sell over 4 million copies in the US. By the end of '87, the legal issues got ironed out with Gilmour retaining the use of the Pink Floyd name. Waters would get a stake in some things including the rights to The Wall. Gilmour would only put out two more studio albums under the Pink Floyd name, 1994's The Division Bell (#1, triple-platinum) and 2014's The Endless River (#3, gold).

ReduxReview:  Pink Floyd is one of those bands that I never really got into. I know some of their material because it was practically inescapable back in the day on rock radio, but besides The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, I never dove into their albums. I will at some point. A Momentary Lapse of Reason was not one of their critically lauded efforts, but it did include this tune, which I liked. The opening with the crunchy drum sound and swooping synths became instantly recognizable and it had memorable melodies. The mid-section with the voices (see below) added a bit of mystery. It ended up being a really good rock radio track and even did well enough to cross over to pop. Pink Floyd was never a singles band, but this one was a pretty good attempt to meld their prog rock into something slightly more mainstream.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia: Double Shot!  1) Gilmour based the song's lyrics on his experiences flying. Around the time the album was being recorded, Gilmour was taking flying lessons. He would eventually become a licensed pilot. Fellow Pink Floyd member drummer Nick Mason was also a pilot. Near the middle of the song there is a section that features vocal overdubs of a radio conversation. Apparently it was an actual recording of Mason in his plane during a flying lesson.  2) The video for this song was directed by Storm Thorgerson. The graphic artist had designed album covers for a lot of artists, but became linked with Pink Floyd for whom he designed over 20 covers including 1973's Dark Side of the Moon. He also directed a few music videos including one for "Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes. The video "Learning to Fly" would win an MTV Music Video Award for Best Concept Video.