Saturday, December 19, 2020

"Reason to Live" by Kiss

Song#:  3352
Date:  12/05/1987
Debut:  98
Peak:  64
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's fourteenth studio album, Crazy Nights, would end up being their best performing of the decade reaching #18 and going platinum. The effort focused on a more mainstream sound with Ron Nevison, who produced Heart's 1985 comeback LP, helping the band along. While the title track first single wasn't a significant hit (#65 Pop/#37 Rock), the associated video proved popular on MTV and helped to sell albums and tour tickets. In addition to having Nevison on board as producer, the band also reached out to hit-making songwriters to assist in shaping their songs. Diane Warren would co-write a track while Desmond Child, who had previously worked with Kiss, helped out on three songs including this second single. It would perform nearly the same as the previous single topping out at #64 Pop and #34 Rock, but once again the video proved to be a hit on MTV. A third single, the Diane Warren co-write "Turn on the Night," wouldn't chart. While critics were mostly negative towards the album, Kiss fans showed up and made it a platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  Nevison and the band were shooting for a "These Dreams" kind of hit with this power ballad and they got fairly close. I'm not sure if it was Top 10 worthy, but it should have at least cracked the Top 40. My guess is that pop radio stations were not that willing to put a Kiss song in rotation even though this track leaned heavily towards Heart/Bon Jovi territory. The band's reputation for hard rock songs and stage theatrics were never really in-step with the pop world, so it was going to be a hard sell to get them accepted on mainstream radio stations. Whatever promotion the label did, it just wasn't enough and the song stalled the same way the title track did. Neither could get over that hump. While I wasn't a fan of the title track, I thought this was a good attempt by the band to keep up with current trends. It just didn't work out as well as it should have.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The last track on the Crazy Nights album was "Thief in the Night." It was written by Kiss member Gene Simmons along with Mitch Weissman. The song was originally recorded by punk rock/heavy metal singer Wendy O. Williams for her 1984 solo debut album WOW. Williams had led the controversial punk band The Plasmatics since 1978. In 1982, the band opened up for Kiss on some of their tour stops. Afterward, The Plasmatics went on a hiatus due to label issues, so Williams chose to do a solo album and secured Simmons for producer. Simmons would co-write five tracks for the LP and got members of Kiss to play on it as well. The album wasn't a big seller, but it got enough attention to earn Williams a Grammy nod for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. "Thief in the Night" was first recorded for the LP. Kiss then decided to cover the track for their Crazy Nights album. The lead single from the WOW album was "It's My Life." The tune was co-written by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley and first demoed by Kiss as a potential track for their 1982 album Creatures of the Night. The song didn't get a formal recording and was set aside. Simmons then revived it for Williams' album. Kiss would re-record the song for their 1998 album Psycho Circus, but once again it got shelved. The unreleased song would finally see the light of day on the 2001 Kiss compilation collection The Box Set.


Friday, December 18, 2020

"Seasons Change" by Exposé

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3351
Date:  11/28/1987
Debut:  57
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The female vocal trio's debut album Exposure had already gone platinum thanks to three Pop Top 10 hits. It was decided that a fourth single was in order and this ballad was selected. While it wasn't a major risk, the trio had established themselves with upbeat dance tunes so this slower paced track was definitely a change of pace and it went over extremely well. The song became their first to hit #1 on both the Pop and AC charts, while also getting to #27 on the R&B chart. It would end up being the biggest chart hit of the trio's career.

ReduxReview:  The timing of this single was a bit unusual, yet perfect. After a pair of uptempo hits, this song seemed like a natural follow-up, but another dance track was released instead. The (pardon the pun) overexposure generated by the first three hits might have hampered the chart prospects for this ballad. Luckily, the tune was strong enough to crash both the Pop and AC charts in a big way. It was the perfect way to end the run of singles from the album. Producer/songwriter Lewis A. Martineé did an excellent job with composition and production on the track and I'd rank it as his best effort.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  With this song making the Pop Top 10, it set a chart record. Exposé became the first group to earn four Top 10 hits from a debut album. However, they weren't the first overall artist to achieve that feat. The first artist to get four Top 10 hits from a debut album was Cyndi Lauper who did it with her 1983 multi-platinum debut She's So Unusual.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

"Everywhere" by Fleetwood Mac

Song#:  3350
Date:  11/28/1987
Debut:  65
Peak:  14
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Featuring two Top 10 hits and another Top 20 entry, Fleetwood Mac's album Tango in the Night had already done well enough to peak at #7 and go platinum. Since its third single, "Little Lies," was a hit reaching #4 Pop and #1 AC, it was decided a fourth single was in order and this track was selected. Like "Little Lies," it was written and sung by Christine McVie. The tune proved be another excellent fit for AC radio and it topped the chart for three weeks. Over on the Pop chart, it looked like it would be another Top 10 for the band, but it stopped just short of that mark. In January of '88 while this song was making its way up the charts, the album would be certified for sales of three million.

ReduxReview:  This was another solid track from Tango in the Night and a good single. I think it was worthy of a quick dip in the Top 10, but it stopped just short. It was a no-brainer that AC would take to the track like a duck to water and indeed it got to #1. Although Lindsey Buckingham's production still had 80s touches, it was less that other tracks on Tango and that gave this song a bit of a timeless appeal. Out of all the singles from Tango, this is the one I hear most often when out and about these days.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The accompanying video for this song featured a story that closely followed the plot of the 1906 poem "The Highwayman" written by English poet/playwright Alfred Noyes. The plot focuses on a highwayman (basically a person on horseback who robs travelers) who falls for an innkeeper's daughter. The two lovers are betrayed by the inn's stable person and a trap is set to ambush the highwayman. The daughter finds out and in her attempt to warn the highwayman she is killed. The highwayman then seeks revenge and in the process is also killed. The poem ends with the ghosts of the lovers meeting. The poem proved to be very popular and has inspired both film and song. A 1951 film by the same name used the poem for its storyline. In 1997, Canadian singer/songwriter adapted the poem into a folk song. It appeared on her album The Book of Secrets.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

"Throwaway" by Mick Jagger

Song#:  3349
Date:  11/28/1987
Debut:  85
Peak:  67
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Jagger's second attempt to become a viable solo star wasn't working out well. Primitive Cool would peak at a low #41 while its first single, "Let's Work," stalled just inside the Top 40 (#39). His 1985 debut solo disc She's the Boss had gone platinum, so it was quite a disappointment that his second effort was struggling to even approach gold level sales. He needed a bigger hit to help out, but this second single didn't get the job done. Although it was another Top 10 at Rock getting to #7, the tune couldn't even manage to reach the top half of the Pop chart. A third single, "Say You Will," got to #39 Rock, but failed to make the Pop chart. Jagger would attempt another solo album in 1993 with Wandering Spirit. It would perform much better reaching #11 and going gold thanks to a pair of Rock Top 10s including the #1 track "Don't Tear Me Up." In 2001, Jagger would record his fourth (and to-date of this posting his last) solo album Goddess in the Doorway. It would reach #39 and fail to go gold. The album was the subject of an infamous review in Rolling Stone where critic and editor in chief Jann Wenner award the LP five stars (basically an instant classic) and wrote that it was better than any Stones album since 1978's Some Girls. Wenner was called out for his review, specifically in the New Yorker magazine that accused those at Rolling Stone of trying to boost the legitimacy of older, classic rock stars. (Note: while the album is not 5-star worthy, I think it is easily Jagger's best solo album with a few excellent tracks, especially "Visions of Paradise," which was a co-write with MatchboxTwenty's Rob Thomas.) After the relative failure of Primitive Cool, Jagger would return to The Rolling Stones to record their successful 1989 LP Steel Wheels.

ReduxReview:  This album opening track was a solid rock song from Jagger. It actually sounded like a solo Jagger effort rather than something he would have written for the Stones or something more left-field like "Let's Work." It didn't have quite enough pop-leaning hooks to make the song work in a more mainstream way, but it was successful as a rock radio track. The production is nice and chunky too. It's an overlooked track from Jagger's solo career.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  During this late 80s period, Jagger and his bandmate Keith Richards were not getting along. A good chunk of the animosity had to do with Jagger pushing the band aside in favor of his solo career. Richards would later dub this period as "World War III" with the band on the brink of calling it quits. They didn't, but they were also not making plans for a new Stones album. So with Jagger doing solo work, Richards decided he was going to take a crack at it as well. In 1988, Richards released his debut solo album Talk Is Cheap. Its first single, "Take It So Hard," was a hit at Rock getting to #3. While the song would not make the Pop chart, the Rock hit along with the publicity about Richards' first solo effort and good critical reviews helped the album get to #24 and go gold, which bested the results of Jagger's Primitive Cool. Since then, Richards has recorded two other studio solo LPs.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

"Could've Been" by Tiffany

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3348
Date:  11/28/1987
Debut:  86
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The teen singer who gained some notoriety via a tour of shopping malls made it to the top of the Pop chart with her remake of the Tommy James & the Shondells classic "I Think We're Alone Now." It was the second single from her self-titled debut album. For a follow-up, this ballad was selected. It ended up being the right choice with the tune becoming her second #1 at Pop and her first #1 at AC. This second hit helped to push the album to #1 for two weeks in late January of '88. Three months later in April, the LP would be certified for sales of over 4 million copies.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't buying the whole Tiffany thing at the time. The weird mall tour combined with the cheezy remake of "I Think We're Alone Now" just turned me off. So when this song first came out I didn't want to have anything to do with it. But the more I heard it, the more I began to actually like it. I didn't want to, but I recognized that it was actually a well-written song. It was a fairly mature song for a 14-year old (age at time of recording) to handle, let alone understand, but Tiffany didn't do too bad of a job. I ended up buying the single and toyed with getting the album thinking there may be a couple of other good tunes on it, but then the third single came out, which was worse than "I Think We're Alone Now," and it killed that idea immediately. Still, this may be the best song that Tiffany ever recorded.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) With this single and the album, Tiffany set a couple of Billboard achievement records. At 16 years of age, she became the youngest artist to have two songs reach #1 and the youngest female artist to have a #1 album. She would hold the latter record until 1997 when at the age of 14, country star LeAnn Rimes reached #1 with her second album Unchained Melody: The Early Years.  2) This song was written by Lois Blaisch. Blaisch began working the clubs late in her teens and also started writing songs. Through connections, she got some work writing tunes for Disney, which included popular projects like Mousercise. In the meantime, Blaisch was still working the clubs in the LA. area, mainly as part of a duo. One evening she invited a couple of industry guys to come see her perform. At the show she played a song she wrote called "Could've Been." One of the guys loved the song and introduced Blaisch to producer George Tobin, who after hearing the tune wanted to develop Blaisch as an artist. In 1983, they recorded "Could've Been." During the recording sessions, Tobin pushed Blaisch to sign over her publishing rights to the song for three years, which she did. The pair recorded a couple of other songs and Blaisch got an offer to sign with MCA Records with Tobin producing and guiding her career. She declined because she did not like Tobin's business tactics and the two parted ways. Three years later at the time the song's publishing rights would return to Blaisch, she got a call from Tobin. He had recorded the song with Tiffany and wanted to sign another deal for publishing rights. Not wanting to let a potential opportunity slip away, Blaisch and her lawyer came up with a deal that split publishing rights for the song if it made the album, but giving Tobin full rights if the song was on a single. While the song did become a #1 single, which benefited Tobin greatly, Blaisch still did pretty well with her share of rights from a 4x platinum album. However, the kicker on this is that Tobin just reused the backing track from the Blaisch recording for Tiffany. He just had Tiffany sing over the existing track.


Monday, December 14, 2020

"Cherokee" by Europe

Song#:  3347
Date:  11/28/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  72
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  The Swedish band scored their biggest hit with the third single from their album The Final Countdown. "Carrie" would be a solid hit reaching #3 on the Pop chart. Because of that hit, the label thought a fourth single was in order and released this track. It couldn't make much headway on the Pop chart and stalled near the bottom quarter. Europe would then retreat to the studio to work on their follow-up LP.

ReduxReview:  This is an odd song. I'm not sure if it was meant to be a message song or a tribute or something to recognize a particularly horrific historical event or all the above. Whatever the case, it was kind of strange that a Swedish glam rock band would record a song about a horrible period in American history. While I appreciate the attempt, it just didn't work for me. It was just too much of a stretch coming from these guys with huge hair and chart conquering aspirations. As an album track, it could kind of meld in with their other tunes, but it was definitely not a good single choice.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The band's lead singer and main songwriter Joey Tempest got the idea to write this song from a book. Apparently, the wife of the band's producer Keith Elson had a book about Native Americans lying around and Tempest took interest in it. After reading about the plight of the Cherokee nation, he thought the subject could be turned into a song. When the initial tracks for The Final Countdown were finished, the band and their producer thought they needed one more. Tempest brought his new tune "Cherokee" to the table and they decided to record it. Weirdly (and perhaps not Tempest's doing), the video for the song had a lot of historical inaccuracies and wasn't even shot in America. It was filmed in Spain in the same desert area where Clint Eastwood's famous spaghetti westerns like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly were shot. If you look close, there are even cacti in the background that were props left from other shoots.


Sunday, December 13, 2020

"She's Fly" by Tony Terry

Song#:  3346
Date:  11/28/1987
Debut:  92
Peak:  80
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  Terry began his career in music as a backup singer, but through connections eventually earned a chance at a solo career with Epic Records. He recorded a debut album titled Forever Yours and this first single was issued out. It did well at R&B reaching #10 on that chart. It then crossed over to Pop, but it didn't catch on as well and fizzled near the bottom of the chart after a couple of months. A follow-up single, "Lovey Dovey," would do even better at R&B reaching #4, but the tune failed to crack the Pop chart. The two R&B hits helped the album reach #27 R&B/#151 Pop.

ReduxReview:  This was a solid New Jack Swing track that probably would have done better had it come out a year or so later. NJS was still breaking at the time and while the new genre was doing well at R&B, with a few minor exceptions, like "Casanova" by LeVert, it was taking a little time for it to get into the pop mainstream. Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown would ignite the genre in '88, but when Terry's single came out, it was still something that was perhaps considered too R&B for pop. Still, it was a good track even though it may not have been quite as memorable as upcoming New Jack hits.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Terry's debut album was produced by Ted Currier. Currier had remixed/produced tracks for several artists including George Clinton's 1982 R&B #1 "Atomic Dog." Another act he worked with was the hip-hop group The Boogie Boys, with which Terry had performed as a background vocalist. The Boogie Boys recorded three albums for Capitol Records between '85 and '88. They mainly became known for their #10 R&B hit "A Fly Girl," which didn't make the Pop chart, but bubbled under at #102.