Thursday, October 21, 2021

"You Came" by Kim Wilde

Song#:  3650
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  84
Peak:  41
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Dance-Pop


Pop Bits:  Nearly five years after she first reached the US Pop chart with 1982's "Kids in America" (#25), British singer Wilde grabbed her biggest hit with the #1 Supremes remake "You Keep Me Hanging On." The track was taken from her fifth album Another Step (#40). For her follow-up LP, Wilde entered the studio with her songwriter/producer brother Ricky along with producer Tony Swain (of the Jolley/Swain production team behind Bananaram's second album featuring "Cruel Summer"). The siblings would co-write most all of the songs on the new LP titled Close with their dad Marty joining in on a few of them. It was a more consistent effort than Another Step, which had featured several producers and songwriters, and in the long run it proved to be vastly more successful - at least in other countries. In the US, the album got kicked off with this first single. While it would do well on the Dance chart getting to #10, the song ended up stopping at the dreaded #41 spot on the Pop chart. Sadly, it would be Wilde's last Pop chart single in the US. With that lackluster result, the album peaked at #114 and became her last to reach the chart. Close may have been a bust in the US, but elsewhere it did very well and overall it would be the biggest selling solo album of her career worldwide hitting the Top 10 in many countries. At home in the UK it would get to #8, go platinum, and spawn three Top 10 hits including "You Came" (#3).

ReduxReview:  It was such a shame that Close got so overlooked in the US. It was much better than the scattershot Another Step and was one of her most consistent efforts. This first single was a good choice to push out. It had been a big hit in the UK and its pseudo Stock Aitken Waterman sound was just right for the time. It may not have been a slam dunk for a Top 10, but it should have at least make the Top 20. The bigger mystery is why the first single in the UK, "Hey Mister Heartache," only got to #31 there, which then prevented it from being released first in the US. That tune had even better hit potential and I think it would have done well in the US. It's a terrific, funky lost gem. The LP also had some other solid tracks like "Four Letter Word" (#6 UK) and the urgent "Never Trust a Stranger" (#7 UK). Each of those should have spent some time in the US Top 40. It was her best selling album in many countries except the US, which was highly disappointing.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) While Wilde's career in the US pretty much halted with Close, she continued to have some success in the UK and other countries. Her next two albums sold far less, but still managed to generate a few charting singles. Her last major hit came in 1993 when her remake of Yvonne Elliman's 1977 #1 "If I Can't Have You" got to #12 in the UK. It became a platinum #3 hit in Australia. It was a new track included on Wilde's compilation LP The Singles Collection: 1981-1993. The song would also become Wilde's final single to hit a US chart; it got to #14 at Dance. Wilde would continue to record albums over the years and in 2018 she got her first UK Top 30 album in twenty-six year when Here Come the Aliens reached #21. As she did with many of her albums, Wilde worked closely with her brother Ricky. He would produce the LP while the pair would co-write most of the songs.  2) Wilde had long held an interest in gardening, but in 1997 while taking a break from music and pregnant with her first child, she took it more seriously and attended horticultural classes. With her expertise in creating gardens along with her celebrity status, it wasn't long before TV stations came calling and after appearing on five episodes of Channel 4's Better Gardens show, the BBC hired her on for a two-season stint on the game show/garden renovation series Garden Invaders. Wilde would then go on to compete in several garden/flower shows around England and would win awards for her work. She would also author two books on gardening.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

"Hands on the Radio" by Henry Lee Summer

Song#:  3649
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  85
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock


Pop Bits:  This Indiana rocker's self-titled major label debut album performed fairly well (#56) thanks to the #1 Rock/#20 Pop hit "I Wish I Had a Girl." A follow-up single, "Darlin' Danielle Don't," would be another winner at Rock getting to #9, but it failed to reach the top half of the Pop chart (#57). Still, that result was good enough for his label to push out this third single. It would stall at #28 at Rock while making very little impact at Pop. The single would close out promotion of the album. Despite the lack of a second mainstream hit, the label seemed pleased with the results and ordered up a second disc from Summer that would come out in the summer of '89.

ReduxReview:  I think folks missed out on both "Darlin' Danielle Don't" and this song. While neither were as immediately catchy as "I Wish I Had a Girl," both had solid Top 40 potential and I'm not exactly sure why the tunes didn't catch on in a bigger way. Heartland rock wasn't all that in fashion at the time unless you were John Mellenamp, so there may have just been a limited audience for Summer's style of rock. That was too bad as Summer had a knack for writing catchy heartland rock tunes and he sold them well with his soaring, slightly gravely voice. The LP had other good highlights including the yearning "Just Another Day." It is worth checking out.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Summer (real name Henry Lee Swartz) was born in the small town of Brazil, Indiana. It is located just outside the city of Terre Haute at the junction of state highways 59 and 40. The farm town is the county seat of Clay County and has a population of around 8,000. A 2018 study declared that Brazil was the poorest town in Indiana with nearly 32% of the residents living under the poverty line. Yet despite that, the small town has had its share of celebrity residents besides Summer. Infamous union leader Jimmy Hoffa was born in Brazil. He left the town when he was eleven as his family made the move to Detroit. Later on, Hoffa would become president of the Teamsters. His legendary disappearance in 1975 has been the subject of books, TV shows, and films. Orville Redenbacher was born in Brazil and grew up on his family's farm where he occasionally sold popcorn out of the back of his car. The agriculture scientist and businessman would go on to form his own popcorn brand that became wildly successful. Redenbacher became a celebrity of sorts in his own right when he appeared in commercials for his own product.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

"A Word in Spanish" by Elton John

Song#:  3648
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  19
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary


Pop Bits:  Touted as a comeback effort, John's '88 album Reg Strikes Back did help to revive his career following the abysmal performance of his '86 LP Leather Jackets and the throat surgery he successsfully had early in '87. The album would become a #16 gold seller thanks to the #2 Pop/#1 AC hit "I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That." To try and keep the momentum going, this next track was issued out as a single. It would do well at AC hitting #4. Over at Pop it didn't catch on quite as well and it stopped just inside the Top 20. Oddly, a third single from the album was not release in the US. In the UK the track "Town of Plenty" was issued out as the second single prior to "A Word in Spanish" (#91 UK), but it only got to #74. Perhaps that result along with the fact that a duet single with John and Aretha Franklin was set to debut early in '89 made the record company choose to not push out a third single in the US. Still, Reg Strikes Back would help to right the ship and it would set John up well for his next LP.

ReduxReview:  Here's a forgotten single in John's catalog. How it ever cracked the Pop Top 20 is a mystery. I assume it just rode the wave created by "I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That" and was able to somehow cruise up the chart. It was a nice album track, but it really was not single material. However, it probably did have the best shot because the LP was not ripe with single candidates. It had the one surefire hit and the balance was fairly tepid, but listenable John/Bernie Taupin compositions. Seriously, do you even remember this song on the radio? I sure don't and it seems that after its run was done, it quickly disappeared. It is certainly one of John's least memorable and least played Top 20 hits.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  During much of Elton John's prime period, he had a steady backing backing band that consisted of Dee Murray on bass, Davey Johnstone on guitars, and Nigel Ollson on bass. While other side players would come and go, the three musicians would form the core of the band that stayed with John through most of the 70, then later in the 80s. For Reg Strikes Back, Johnstone would stick around on guitars, but Murray and Ollson would only contribute background vocals. For Murray, it would be his last project with John as he would die of a stroke while battling cancer in '92. Over the years, the three musicians would work on projects with other artists besides John, but only Ollson would take a legit stab at a solo career. Although Ollson issued out a prog rock album in 1971, it was after he started working with John that he got a chance to try for a solo career. He signed on with John's label, Rocket Records, and in 1975 issued out a self-titled LP. A single from it, "Only One Woman," would only get to #91 and the album failed to chart. Then a 1978 album for Columbia came and went to little notice, but a 1979 album for Bang Records simply titled Nigel did better. It spawned a pair of Pop Top 40 entries with "Dancin' Shoes" getting to #18 (#8 AC) and "Little Bit of Soap" making it to #34 (#9 AC). A second album for Bang in 1980 was a bust and that result basically ended Ollson's main attempt at a solo career. He would then pick back up with John and also work with other artists.

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Monday, October 18, 2021

"Never Let You Go" by Sweet Sensation

Song#:  3647
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  58
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Freestyle, Dance-Pop


Pop Bits:  This NYC vocal trio's debut album Take It While It's Hot had thus far spawned three singles. Two of them would make the Pop chart including the title track, which peaked at a minor #57. Still looking for a bigger breakthrough, this fourth single was issued out. It certainly caught on in the clubs with the tune becoming the trio's first and only to reach #1 on the Dance chart. Yet a more mainstream audience was still ambivalent about the group's material and for the third time they were unable to make it into the top half of the Pop chart. It wasn't looking good for trio, but luckily their label stuck with them and a fifth single would help get them on the map.

ReduxReview:  This was another good, yet unremarkable, freestyle track from the trio. I can hear how this might ignite the dance floor in clubs, but it still wasn't the right song to break them in a more mainstream way. When compared to charting songs by other freestyle female groups of the time, this one melded in with the pack and didn't stand out. Ted Currier's production was quite good, but the lead vocals were average and the tune just okay. It sounded like it was geared towards club play with a lot of instrumental passages that focused on beats and production. The melody/chorus seemed more like an afterthought. While this was good for the dance floor, it wasn't necessarily right for pop radio and indeed it failed to make a big impression.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  When their debut album was released, the trio consisted of sisters Margie and Mari Fernandez and Betty Lebron. However, as things began to heat up for the group, Mari was getting uncomfortable with how their career was being developed and handled. According to an online interview with Mari, it seemed that her vision for the group was that each member would have a chance to equally showcase their skills. Yet the company behind the group began pushing Betty out front making it more of a trio with a lead singer. That didn't sit well with Mari. Then the company told them to cut ties with songwriter/producer David Sanchez, the person who initially helped the trio get started and produced two tracks for their debut LP. Mari and David had become good friends and she wasn't about to just toss him aside because someone told her to do so. Frustrated with all that was happening with Sweet Sensation and the path they were being forced down, Mari decided to quit in late '88. Her sister Margie decided to continue on with Betty and they hired in Sheila Vega as Mari's replacement. Around this time, "Never Let You Go" had reached #1 at Dance and their fifth single was shaping up to be a hit. So instead of waiting to fully integrate Vega until the next LP, the record company chose to introduce her by replacing the cover of Sweet Sensation's debut album with a new photo that got rid of Mari and included Vega. In '89, new pressings of the album were sent out with Vega on the cover. However, even though Vega appeared on the cover, she would not be heard on the album as none of the tracks were updated with her voice. The songs all remained intact with Mari's vocals. The new trio would then go on to record a new album that would be issued out in '90.

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Sunday, October 17, 2021

"Edge of a Broken Heart" by Vixen

Song#:  3646
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  96
Peak:  26
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock


Pop Bits:  The roots of this band go back to guitarist Jan Kuehnemund's high school days in the early 70s in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her first band was called Lemon Pepper. They turned into Genesis, but then later became Vixen to avoid any issues with the successful UK band Genesis. Vixen didn't stick together long and broke up in '74. As the 80s rolled in, Kuehnemund decided to revive the Vixen name and set out to create an all-female rock band. Janet Gardner would come in as lead singer sometime in '83 while three other women filled out the other roles. As the quintet started to hone their skills, they got the opportunity to be in a movie. Vixen got cast as a band called Diaper Rash in the '84 sex comedy Hardbodies. It wasn't long after that the group moved to L.A. and began working the clubs. A couple years later, Vixen would become a quartet with the steady lineup of Kuehnemund, Gardner, Roxy Petrucci, and Share Pedersen. They worked the Sunset Strip clubs and were one of the bands interviewed in Penelope Spheeris' documentary The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years. In '88, they finally landed a record deal with EMI Manhattan and work began on a self-titled debut album. When completed, this first single was issued out. It would do fairly well getting to #24 Rock while making the Pop Top 30. Some good MTV coverage helped the song along with some press about the track's writer/producer (see below).

ReduxReview:  With the glam/metal scene basically a boys club, an all-female hard rock band seemed more like a novelty than something legit, but Vixen certainly made their mark and proved they had the skills to hang with any other band on the circuit. However, I think this single was a bit polarizing. While it was a terrific song that featured some high flying vocals from Gardner, it really was a pop song at heart dressed up in glam metal clothes and hair. Then the fact that it was a Richard Marx tune seemed to take away some of the band's cred. I remember some folks sort of ripping on the band basically saying that they were not the real deal because they got this pop guy to help mold them into something commercially viable for the sake of publicity and record sales - basically selling out. That wasn't necessarily true, but Marx was brought in to supply a breakthrough tune, which he did and did well. If a band of guys had done this, I doubt they would have gotten the same flack and that really sucks. Regardless, Vixen got their deserved break and I think this song went on to become more popular and well-known over time than what its chart peak would indicate. It really should have been a Top 10 hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  After Vixen had recorded most of the tracks for their EMI debut album, their manager Allen Kovac liked what they had come up with, but thought they lacked a surefire hit. Kovac then reached out to one of his other clients who also happened to be signed to EMI, Richard Marx. Marx had been a successful songwriter for hire before his '87 debut album became a major hit and made him a star. While out on tour to support the LP, Marx got a call from Kovac who asked him to supply a potential hit song for Vixen. Kovac sent a couple of tracks from the album to Marx, who liked what the band was doing. He particularly liked Janet Gardner's lead vocals. While on a two-day break from his tour, Marx sat down and quickly came up with the music for "Edge of a Broken Heart." However, all he had for lyrics was the opening line of the chorus. Needing help to fill out the rest of the song, he called up Fee Waybill, the lead singer of The Tubes, who took the song and was able to quickly come up with the balance of the lyrics. Kovac loved what he heard and then asked Marx if he could produce the song during another tour break. Marx did and the end result was this Top 30 hit.

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Saturday, October 16, 2021

"Way Out" by J.J. Fad

Song#:  3645
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  61
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rap


Pop Bits:  This female rap trio made an impression with their first single, "Supersonic." The song would end up being a gold seller that got to #22 R&B/#30 Pop/#10 Dance. To follow-it up, this track from their debut album Supersonic would be issued out. It wouldn't do as well as their first single only getting to #61 Pop/#51 R&B. The tune didn't do much for album sales, but by this point in time the LP had already peaked at #20 R&B/#49 Pop and gone gold.

ReduxReview:  "Supersonic" was a terrific track and while this follow up didn't quite get to the same level, it was still a solid track. It was a hooky tune that was a fun listen. I also liked the addition of the guitar sample from The Monkees' 1966 track "Mary, Mary." (Just a couple months earlier, Run-D.M.C. covered "Mary Mary"). I bought the single and thought it would be another good hit for the trio, but it surprisingly stalled in the bottom half of both the Pop and R&B charts. "Supersonic" rightfully gets all the love and attention, but folks shouldn't have ignored this little gem.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  While J.J. Fad is usually seen as a female rap trio with Juana Burns (aka MC J.B.), Dania Birks (Baby-D), Michelle Franklin (Sassy C.), the group also had a side member. DJ Train (Clarence Lars) would man the turntable for the trio and provide the scratching behind the tunes. He would do so on the group's debut album and on their 1990 follow up. However, J.J. Fad was not his only project. In 1989, he would help form the gangsta rap outfit C.P.O. (Capital Punishment Organization) with Vince "Lil' Nation" Edwards. They would release an album in 1990 titled To Hell and Black. Although none of their singles would reach the charts, the album would get to #33 R&B. It would be the group's only album. Sadly, in 1994 DJ Train died of smoke inhalation due to a house fire. It seems that his mother, sisters and niece made it out fine, but Train thought there were two more people inside and ran in to get them. It was a fatal mistake as he was then overcome by the smoke. He passed away later at a local hospital.

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Friday, October 15, 2021

"One Moment in Time" by Whitney Houston

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3644
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  57
Peak:  5
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack


Pop Bits:  The idea of creating songs for the Olympics wasn't a new one. The '84 summer games held in Los Angeles had an official soundtrack with compositions (John Williams' now famous "Olympic Fanfare and Theme") and pop/rock tunes by the likes of Loverboy, Foreigner, and Christopher Cross whose track "A Change for Heaven" was issued out as a single (#16 AC/#76 Pop). The album wasn't a big seller, but its concept wasn't forgotten as the '88 Summer Olympics approached. To be held in Seoul, South Korea NBC would be the main broadcaster for the US and it seems someone took the idea of a themed album to Arista head Clive Davis and a deal was struck for him to supply a soundtrack. Of course Davis had in his label stable one of the biggest stars in music at the time, Whitney Houston, so it seemed logical for her to appear on the album. The song given to her was an Albert Hammond/John Bettis composition titled "One Moment in Time." Houston got it recorded with producer Narada Michael Walden and a few weeks prior to the open ceremonies, the song was issued out as a single. The timing, of course, was perfect as Houston had just wrapped up the singles from her second album. Then the Olympics came and the inspirational tune was all over NBC's broadcast. All that plus Houston's star power and vocal ability helped the song become her 10th consecutive Pop Top 10 hit. It would also become her seventh #1 on the AC chart. Over on the R&B chart it didn't do as well and became her first single to not hit the Top 10 reaching only #22. The song would end up earning Whitney a Grammy nod for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. Thanks to the hit, the soundtrack album would reach #31 and go gold (yes, an appropriate certification for something Olympic related).

ReduxReview:  For anyone who needs a massive, inspirational, treacly, catchy, mass-appealing song for an event or occasion, this would be it. Hammond and Bettis certainly gave their all and threw in every musical trick in the book to make this work not only for the Olympics, but for Houston as well. It was going to take someone with prime vocal chops to pull this off and Houston was the right one for the job. Between the writers, Houston, and Walden's equally gigantic arrangement/production, the song became the perfect anthem for the Olympics and although it leaned towards sentimental AC pop, it still became a big hit. While I definitely appreciated all of that, I really didn't like the song at all. For me it was just a big overblown schlocky tune that was good for what it was written for, but as a pop single constantly heard on the radio....yeesh. It wore me down after about two listens. Plus, I was getting tired of Houston belting out these AC songs that sounded like they were for someone twice her age. Clive Davis had kept her stocked up on these adult ballads and it all sort of culminated with this one. While I appreciate its Olympic use and its place in history at the time, as just a song in Houston's catalog it doesn't rank among my favorites.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Since the host country for the Olympics was South Korea, Houston didn't get to perform the song at the opening or closing ceremonies. Her first big live performance of the song came when she sang it during the opening of the Grammy Awards show in February of '89. Her rendition at the show is considered among her best performances. Houston was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, for the song at that show, but she ended up losing the trophy to Tracy Chapman.

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Thursday, October 14, 2021

"How Can I Fall?" by Breathe

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3643
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  79
Peak:  3
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop, Adult Contemporary


Pop Bits:  This British band had difficulty trying to break through, but after several single attempts in the UK and US, their song "Hands to Heaven" finally secured them a hit (#2 Pop/#2 AC). To follow it up, their label chose to release another ballad and sent out "How Can I Fall?" It would end up being another winner for them getting to #3 Pop while topping the AC chart. The second hit spurred sales of the album, which would reach a new peak of #34 and go gold.

ReduxReview:  Although they probably didn't want to get trapped as being a ballad band, this was a smart choice for a follow-up single. It was another pretty, memorable track that once again featured a lovely vocal by David Glasper. And as with "Hands to Heaven," how did the record company not hear a hit in this? It seems they were dead set on breaking the band with an uptempo tune and it wasn't working. Meanwhile, they had this song and "Hands to Heaven" just sitting there hoping to get a chance. Luckily, the label stuck with the band long enough to finally issue these out. If they hadn't, the album would have disappeared into obscurity. Instead, me and a half million other folks in the US bought the disc.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Like many artists who have made the charts, Breathe's time in the pop sunshine wouldn't last long. The band would end up splitting in 1992 and that left its members looking for new opportunities. For the band's main co-writer/guitarist/keyboardist Marcus Lillington, it seems that he chose to leave the music business behind in favor of technology. He got involved with a dot com company in the 90s and by 2002 he and a couple of his co-workers formed their own business called Headscape. Focusing on website design and strategies, the company has been highly successful and have landed high profile clients (including one close to me - the University of Michigan Law School). Lillington has also co-hosted a podcast since 2005 about website design that is associated with Headscape. However, Lillington hasn't fully given up music. As of this posting date he has been a member of a country band called Duncan Biscuit & the Rich Ts. They issued out an EP in 2020 titled Songs for Tonto.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

"Dance Little Sister (Part One)" by Terence Trent D'Arby

Song#:  3642
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  81
Peak:  30
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Soul, Funk


Pop Bits:  Darby's debut album started off slow, but eventually made a splash hitting #4 Pop/#1 R&B and going platinum thanks to a pair of Top 10 hits including the #4 "Sign Your Name," which was the LP's third single. To follow up that hit, this next track was selected. The song would do well at R&B getting to #9 while hitting #7 on the Dance chart. It would cross over to the Pop chart, but it wouldn't do quite as well topping out just at the Top 30 mark. Although it wasn't a major hit at Pop, the tune seemed to help keep album sales steady and by November '88 it would turn double platinum.

ReduxReview:  For this song, D'Arby took on a Prince via James Brown approach and it worked out well. It was another solid track from D'Arby that I thought would do better. The funky jam should have at least cracked the Top 20. It was probably the last single-worthy track on the LP, so the label smartly didn't try for a fifth single. D'Arby certainly made his mark with the album, but it would be short-lived. He would never be able to replicate its success, at least in the US.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  D'Arby would get his second album recorded and ready for release in the fall of '89. Neither Fish Nor Flesh was highly anticipated, but when its first single "This Side of Love" came out, no one bit. The song failed to chart. A second single, "To Know Someone Deeply Is To Know Someone Softly," was able to reach #47 at R&B, but it didn't do much for the album, which only got to #61 Pop/#75 R&B. D'Arby's last song to reach the Pop chart came via his third album 1993's Symphony or Damn. "Delicate," which featured English pop/soul singer Des'ree, would get to #74. After one more album in '95 titled Violator, it seems that D'Arby may have lost his contract with Columbia and he retreated from the business for a bit. In 2001, he would declare that Terence Trent D'Arby was dead and that he had discovered a new spirit and identity. He then legally changed his name to Sandada Maitreya and began to work on music again. Between 2001 and 2021, Maitreya would record nine albums
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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

"Waiting for a Star to Fall" by Boy Meets Girl

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3641
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  83
Peak:  5
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop


Pop Bits:  This husband and wife duo of George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam first hit the Pop chart early in '85 with their song "Oh Girl." Taken from their self-titled debut album, the tune would just crack the Pop Top 40 at #39. The album would get to #76. Following that result, it seems that things didn't work out all that well at A&M and the duo lost their contract. Even though their recording career was floundering, the pair found success writing songs for other artists. They basically hit the jackpot twice supplying two songs for Whitney Houston, both of which became #1 hits; "How Will I Know" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)." Those successes boosted the couple's profile and helped them secure another recording contract this time with RCA Records. They would record their second album, Reel Life, and this first single would be issued out. The song would become a major hit for them making the Pop Top 5 while hitting #1 on the AC chart. In turn, the album would make it to #50. The single would end up being their only one to make the Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  This song finally got matched with the right artist, who just happened to be the ones who wrote it (see below). It was a tune that was meant for them to record. It definitely had hit potential, but it was one of those songs that not everyone could perform. I can't imagine Houston doing this tune and Carlisle's demo proved it wasn't a good fit for her either. Sometimes the best person to record a song is whoever composed it and I think that was the case here. This was just a delicious slice of late 80s pop pie. Expertly written with sparkling, spot-on production by Arif Mardin, it was a catchy, urgent, sentimental song that was hard to resist. I also loved how the track progressed and built from the bridge to the sax solo to the climactic break. Oh, but that was just the first one. A second, bigger one came along giving the song its ultimate peak. A terrific late 80s pop tune that still sounds great.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Rejection can often hurt, but in the case of this song and Boy Meets Girl, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. When Clive Davis was gathering songs for Whitney Houston's second album, the pair were asked to submit a tune since their "How Will I Know" from Houston's debut album was a hit. Apparently, Merrill and Rubicam got an idea for a song when they went to see Houston perform at L.A.'s Greek Theater. During the show, they happened to see a falling star and that prompted them to write this song for Houston. They presented the demo to Clive Davis, who then rejected the song. Dejected but not defeated, the couple then went on to write "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)," which Davis liked enough not only to send it over to Houston, but to have it be the lead single from her second album. The song would hit #1. Meanwhile, "Waiting for a Star to Fall," got picked up by MCA Records and they pushed it over to Belinda Carlisle to record for her second solo album. She did a halfhearted demo (can be heard on YouTube) and quickly decided that the song was not a fit for her and rejected it despite label pressure. The song was then reportedly picked up by Robert Palmer either for his use or for an artist he was producing. Around that time Boy Meets Girl got signed to RCA and approached famed producer Arif Mardin to work with them. They played him the song and he agreed to produce them as the thought the song was a hit. The only stickler was that Palmer had the tune. So Mardin gave him a call and asked him to hold off on doing anything with it and Palmer agreed. The song finally got recorded and became a hit. Had it not been for the song getting rejected, who knows if Boy Meets Girl would have been able to secure a Top 10 hit. The tune was obviously meant to be for them.

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Monday, October 11, 2021

"Strangelove" by Depeche Mode

Song#:  3640
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  95
Peak:  50
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Synthpop, Alternative Rock


Pop Bits:  This band's album Music for the Masses peaked at #35 in November '87 and a few months later was certified gold. It was boosted by three singles all of which did well on the Dance chart, but couldn't get any higher than #61 on the Pop chart. That included the lead single "Strangelove," which made it to #1 Dance/#76 Pop. The band's label could have called it a day and wrapped up things with the LP, but it seems that someone at the label felt that "Strangelove" didn't get a fair shake in the US (it went Top 10 in several countries and #16 in the band's UK homeland). In order to perhaps correct that, the label ordered up a new edit/remix of the song for single release in the US. On its second go-round, the tune did a little better on the Pop chart making it to the halfway point. It would also make it on to the Dance chart at #24. Although the song is seen as a classic in the band's catalog today and is familiar to a lot of people, back in the late 80s the tune just couldn't find its way into the mainstream.

ReduxReview:  In general, you can't really go wrong with any of the versions of this song. I prefer the cleaner sound of this later single and album version, but even the amped up initial single didn't take anything away from the tune. The record company tried in vain to make it a hit in the US, but it just wasn't going to happen. Still, the song remains popular in the band's catalog and is probably more well known today that it was back then.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The final show on the band's tour in support of Music for the Masses was held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on June 18, 1988. Prior to that performance it was decided that they would use the show as the basis for a concert documentary film. They brought on board famed music documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker to direct the movie, which interspersed performances by the band with segments featuring a set of fans that had won a contest to travel across the country to see the band. It was more of a documentary than a full-on concert film. Titled 101 due to the show being the 101st and last of their tour, the film was released along with an associated live album. Both were released in March of '89. The album would sell fairly well reaching #45 in the US and #5 in the UK. The single "Everything Counts" would be issued out from the album. It wouldn't make the US Pop chart, but did get to #16 on the Dance chart (#6 UK).

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Sunday, October 10, 2021

"Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley (Free Baby)" by Will to Power

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3639
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  97
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Soft Rock, Pop


Pop Bits:  Will to Power's first two singles were both middling entries peaking around the halfway mark on the Pop chart. However, the second one, "Say It's Gonna Rain," would be a hit in clubs and would reach #1 on the Dance chart. As that song was wrapping up its run, the group's self-titled debut album was ready and this third single coincided with its release. The ballad medley was completely different from the group's previous two dance-oriented hits and that allowed it to have a bit more mainstream appeal. The track debuted low on the Pop chart, but steadily ascended until it finally reached #1 in its thirteenth week. It would also do well at AC getting to #2. Sales of the single were strong and it would become a gold seller. Unfortunately, it seemed like more folks were interested in the single than the album, which only managed to reach a minor #68. 

ReduxReview:  Not long before this song came up for the blog, I saw an episode of the TV show Evil where girls started stabbing themselves in the ear due to subliminal messages they heard in a song that they couldn't get out of their heads. This hit didn't contain secret messages, but anytime I heard it I felt like the girls from the show; I just wanted to jab a pencil in my ear to make it stop. The concept of tossing these two classics together wasn't necessarily a bad one, but the fact that they were thrown into a vat and tossed around with sugary goo to get them thickly candy coated with late 80s synthpop was an awful idea. To add to the mess, the production was not great and Bob Rosenberg's voice was barely passable. I could see how some Frampton fans might have looked nostalgically at this track, but I would have expected fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd to cry foul. To take such a classic Southern rock song and turn it into pop fluff is nearly sacrilege. I just didn't get it. I thought the track was pretty awful and I avoided it at all costs. Still do. It is definitely one of the worst #1 songs of the 80s if not one of the worst songs of the decade in general.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  This track was a medley of two classic rock songs from the 70s. "Baby, I Love Your Way" was originally written and recorded by Peter Frampton for his 1975 fourth album Frampton. It would be the LP's second single, but it failed to chart as did its first single "Show Me the Way." Both songs would appear on his next LP Frampton Come Alive!, which would become one of the best selling live albums of all time (8 million in the US). "Show Me the Way" and "Baby, I Love Your Way" would both be issued out again as singles in their live versions and would reach #6 and #12, respectively on the Pop chart. A third single, "Do You Feel Like I Do," would get to #10. Will to Power would not be the only artist to take Frampton's song into the Pop Top 10. In 1994, the pop/reggae band Big Mountain would cover "Baby, I Love Your Way" and take it to #6. The second song in the medley was "Free Bird," a classic track original recorded by the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was the closing track on their 1973 debut album (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd). The following year after the success of "Sweet Home Alabama" (#8 Pop) off of their second album Second Helping, the song was released as a single due to its gaining popularity. Edited down from the 9 minute album version to just over 4 minutes, the song would make it to #19 Pop. Two years later, a live version would be issued out and get to #38. Will to Power's mastermind Bob Rosenberg came up with the idea to combine the songs. He didn't have enough tracks for the group's debut album and was searching for ideas. He happened to hear "Baby, I Love Your Way" on the radio, which made him thing of the song "Free Bird." Rosenberg then had an "a-ha!" moment and decided to create a medley of the two. Rosenberg sang the male vocal while Suzi Carr sang the female part. The unusual medley appealed to a wide range of folks many who were riding a nostalgia wave from knowing the original songs.

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Saturday, October 9, 2021

"Button Off My Shirt" by Paul Carrack

Song#:  3638
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  91
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul


Pop Bits:  Carrack's remake of "When You Walk in a Room" served as the third single from his third album One Good Reason. It didn't perform well peaking at a very low #90 on the Pop chart. Still, Carrack's label thought there was more gas in the tank and decided to issue out this fourth single. It did nearly the same stopping one notch lower at #91. That result wrapped up things for the album. However, Carrack would keep busy as a member of Mike + the Mechanics with their hit Living Years album soon to be released in October of '88. Carrack would then head back into the studio to record his fourth solo effort.

ReduxReview:  I really like the chorus of this song. It's immediately catchy and I like the melody along with the chord changes. It was a good fit for Carrack as well. However, the rest of the song doesn't quite come up to the same level as the chorus. It sounds basic and is a bit bland. It is also very 80s-centric. Co-writer Graham Lyle had written hits for Tina Turner and touches of this tune are reminiscent of some of the tunes he did for her. It's a likable track, but overall not one that was going to get far up the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by country superstar Ronnie Milsap. Written by Bill Livsey and Graham Lyle, Milsap recorded the tune for his 1987 album Heart & Soul. It would later be released in the late summer of '88 as the fifth single from the LP. It would reach #4 on the Country chart a month after Carrack's version debuted on the Pop chart.  2) As Carrack was finishing up his One Good Reason album, he got the opportunity to contribute a song to a soundtrack. Songwriter Dean Pitchford, who wrote the screenplay and co-wrote the songs for the '84 hit flick Footloose, was busy in '87 working on his next film. His next screenplay would be for the high school drama Sing. Like Footloose, Pitchford would co-write songs that would be featured in the movie and secure some top talent to perform them including Michael Bolton, Patti LaBelle, REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin, and Starship's Mickey Thomas. Carrack was also approached to do some vocals for the film's love song "Romance." It would end up being  duet between Carrack and Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn. The song would be released as a single and get to #14 at AC. It failed to reach the Pop chart. The only other charting single from the soundtrack was "Birthday Suit" by Johnny Kemp, which would get to #21 R&B/#36 Pop/#36 Dance. The film was a critical and box office failure. The soundtrack was also a dud peaking at #196.

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Friday, October 8, 2021

"Groovy Kind of Love" by Phil Collins

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3637
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  52
Peak:  1 (2 week)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack


Pop Bits:  While Collins wasn't necessarily a soundtrack king like Kenny Loggins, two of his Pop #1 hits came from films; "Against All Odds" from the movie of the same name and "Separate Lives" from White Nights. Collins would add to that total with this single from the soundtrack to the comedy crime film Buster, which just happened to star Collins along with Julie Walters. In addition to starring in the film, Collins would supply four new songs to the soundtrack, which also featured a few oldies along with snippets of the score by Art of Noise's Anne Dudley. Prior to the film's release, this first single from the soundtrack was issued out. The song quickly took off and made it to the top of the Pop chart in eight weeks. It would stay at #1 for two weeks and then leisurely descend spending an additional sixteen weeks on the chart. The single would end up being a gold seller. It would also reach #1 AC along with hitting #1 in Collins' UK homeland. It marked the first and only time that a Collins solo hit would reach #1 in both the US and the UK. The soundtrack album would eventually become a gold seller despite only reaching #54 on the chart. This song would be Collins' fifth Pop #1 apart from his band Genesis, with whom he reached #1 once. It would also earn Collins a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.

ReduxReview:  I admit that when this came out I didn't know it was a remake. I thought it was an amazing song and ran out to get the single. After seeing the songwriters listed and figuring in the "groovy" title, I realized something was up. I later learned, probably in Billboard or via the American Top 40 radio show that Collins was not the first to record the tune. Still, I loved it and played the single quite a bit. While the record buying public love the song, it didn't get a lot of critical accolades. It was considered a schmaltzy remake of a good 60s tune and a vehicle to keep Collins as a hot property pop star. These days, I don't think those assessments were too far off. Collins was trying to up the ante by attempting to be a movie star and in case that didn't work (it didn't...) he was certainly still going to be a music star and the idea to remake this song (apparently courtesy of singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop) seemed like a potential big win (it was...). Despite being a gold-selling #1 hit, I don't hear this song often these days. It has taken a backseat to other Collins/Genesis hits and in some ways I think that is okay. It was an interesting remake at the time it came out, but it is now sort of an odd, yet pleasant artifact in Collins' discography.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the English beat band The Mindbenders and released as a single in 1965. The song would reach #2 in both the US and the UK. The song's melody came from the Rondo section of composer Muzio Clementi's Sonatina, Opus 36, No. 5, which was published in 1797. Brill Building songwriters Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager wrote lyrics to go with the adapted melody. The completed song was first given to Lesley Gore, but her producer turned it down due to the use of the slang word "groovy." The tune then got picked up by The Mindbenders. It was their first single after their original leader Wayne Fontana left the group. It would prove to be their only Top 10 hit without Fontana. Collins' ballad-style remake would surpass the upbeat original and top both the US and UK chart. (Weird side note - Toni Wine was also a session vocalist and was one of The Archies. She was also one of the voices used in the famous Meow Mix commercials.)  2) While Buster was Collins' first starring role in a film, it wasn't his first time acting. He actually attended acting school as a teenager and in '64 was cast as the Artful Dodger in West End runs of the hit musical Oliver! He also was cast in a British TV children's movie called Calamity the Cow. After auditioning for the lead part in 1968's Romeo and Juliet (which eventually went to Leonard Whiting), Collins put acting aside to focus on music. Buster was based on 1963 Great Train Robbery in England and one of its participants Buster Edwards (he actually makes a cameo in the film). Reviews of the film were generally mixed and although it did fairly well in the UK, it was a box office dud in the US. The soundtrack, however, became far more popular.

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Thursday, October 7, 2021

"Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)" by Cinderella

Song#:  3636
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  74
Peak:  12
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal


Pop Bits:  This Philly band's 1986 debut album, Night Songs, became a #3 multi-platinum seller thanks to the #13 Pop hit "Nobody's Fool." After that success and subsequent tours, the band then had to get back into the studio to record a follow-up. Long Cold Winter was ready to go by the spring of '88 and to kick things off the label issued out a track titled "Gypsy Road" as the first single. While the tune would do fairly well at Rock getting to #20, the song wasn't the right one for a more mainstream audience and it failed to make the Pop chart (it would be reissued later in '89 and do better). Next up for release was the power ballad "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)." The song took off at Rock and became the band's first Top 10 hit reaching #10. That result along with support from MTV helped the song cross over to the Pop chart where it would go on to become their biggest hit peaking just outside the Top 10. In turn, the album would then peak at #10 and be certified platinum. A little over two months later it would go double-platinum.

ReduxReview:  I didn't hook into Cinderella at the time. The lone exception was "Coming Home" from Long Cold Winter. I bought that single, but for the most part ignored the band. I really shouldn't have. They had some solid tracks and this hit was one of them. Their blues-leaning rock set them a bit apart from the other hair metal bands at the time and I really should have listened to them more. This power ballad was ripe for crossover success and it should have gone Top 10. It was a well-written tune with pop sensibilities dressed up with big guitars and even bigger hair.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was directed by Nick Morris. He had previously done videos for several top artists including Paul Young, Mr. Mister, Eddie Money, and Europe. Cinderella's record company hired him on to do two videos for the band's new album. They gave him a sizable budget and wanted the videos to be done in exotic locales. For "Gypsy Road," Morris took the band to Mexico and initially tried to shoot a video at the famous Mayan pyramid site of Chichén Itzá, but they were thwarted from doing so by local officials. Morris then found an unattended pyramid not far away and did the shoot. For "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)," Morris and the band went to Mono Lake, a saline soda lake located in Bodie National Forest in California. The picturesque lake had a ghost town nearby and the combo seemed perfect for a video shoot. Securing permission to use the sites was not difficult, but they could not disturb the natural landscape. The crew basically had to assemble everything in their cars and vans and carry it to the shoot locations as they could not drag, pull, or drive anything across the national park areas including the beach. Still, for one of the video's most memorable images, they somehow got a grand piano set up on the beach for lead singer Tom Keifer to sit and perform at. Of course this was back in the days when record companies were spending scads of money on music videos. That extravagance would, for the most part, go away when the music biz would change with the advent of streaming and services such as YouTube. Michael and Janet Jackson's 1995 video for "Scream" still remains the most expensive music video ever made coming it at $7 million.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2021

"Inside a Dream" by Jane Wiedlin

Song#:  3635
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  57
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop


Pop Bits:  Former Go-Go Wiedlin grabbed her first and only solo Pop Top 10 hit with "Rush Hour," the first single from her second album Fur. To follow it up, this next track was selected for release. Unfortunately, it didn't catch on as well as her previous single and it stopped shy of the halfway point on the Pop chart. By this point in time the album had already reached its peak of #105. In 1990, Wiedlin would release her third solo album Tangled. The single "World on Fire" would fail to chart and the LP quickly disappeared. It would be ten years before Wiedlin would record a fourth effort. Kissproof World would come out in 2000. Over the years Wiedlin would rejoin the Go-Go's for various performances and tours along with recording the band's fourth album, 2001's God Bless the Go-Go's.

ReduxReview:  This album-opening track was a good choice for a follow-up single, but it just wasn't quite as immediately catchy or memorable as "Rush Hour." I actually think the single's b-side "Song of the Factory" could have done better. The track quickly became a fan favorite and had been highlighted by some critics. A cool dance remix of the song might have pushed the tune into the Top 40. While a nice tune, "Inside a Dream" just wasn't going to be a major hit. The Fur album had some highlights and was a good listen, but for me it was weaker than her wonderfully quirky '85 self-titled debut album. Her next album, Tangled, also had a few good tracks, but I think Wiedlin got a raw deal from her label EMI. The title track, which appeared in the 1990 film Pretty Woman and was on its soundtrack, should have been the lead single. Instead, "World on Fire," which was not single-worthy, was released and it predictably tanked. Wiedlin was a solid songwriter both with the Go-Go's and on her own and she should have had a bigger solo career. A few critics dismissed her thin, baby doll voice, but I liked her unique sound and delivery. All four of her solo discs are worth checking out, especially her underrated '85 debut. (It had been a while since I'd heard this song and I kept thinking - where have I heard the verse before?  It sounded so familiar. Then it hit me. It was very, very similar to the verse in Sinéad O'Connor's 1990 "The Emperor's New Clothes," the second single from her #1 album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. The single got to #60 Pop. I doubt O'Connor copped from Wiedlin, but the passages are eerily similar.)

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to a solo music career, Wiedlin dabbled in acting after departing from the Go-Go's. Her first role was a short, but memorable cameo in the 1985 board game inspired comedy flick Clue. She appeared as a singing telegram. The film was a critical and box office dud, but it later became a popular cult film. She also briefly appeared in 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and '87's Sleeping Beauty. Wiedlin then played Joan of Arc in the 1989 hit comedy Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. The small tastes of acting didn't really entice Wiedlin to pursue larger roles. She would mainly stick to music, but along the way did appear in a few films and TV shows. She also provided voice work for several animated shows including later iterations of the Scooby-Doo series.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

"The Promise" by When in Rome

One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  3634
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  87
Peak:  11
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Synthpop


Pop Bits:  This UK trio formed in '87 and immediately set out to record demos and gain exposure by performing in clubs. Elektra Records showed interest in the trio and ended up signing them. Unfortunately, not long after joining Elektra, the US-based label decided to close their London office. The trio could have stayed on the label, but decided to get out of their contract because it proved too difficult to be in London and have to work remotely with a US office. Luckily, they had another option. Virgin Records had also been interested in the trio, so they quickly signed on with Virgin's offshoot label 10 Records. One of their demo songs that attracted the label, "The Promise," got recorded and was initially pushed out in the UK in '87, but it got nowhere. However, later in '88 a remix of the tune got some traction in US clubs. It would catch on and in June of '88 it would get to #1 on the Dance chart. With that success, Virgin ordered an album and then tried to push the song to pop radio. It would take a while, but the tune began to gain an audience and eventually it would just miss the US Pop Top 10 peaking at the dreaded #11 spot. The trio's debut album would get released in the fall and it would make it to #84. Although When in Rome would get one more very minor Pop chart entry, this lone near-Top 10 hit got them tagged as a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  When in Rome fell in line with other Europop bands of the era like OMD and Ultravox who took a combination of synthpop and new wave to the masses via chugging rhythms and catchy melodies. The band hit the right formula on the head with "The Promise." The percolating track with its soaring, memorable chorus and sentimental lyrics was certainly 80s ear candy. It was too bad that it stopped one notch short of the Top 10. Unfortunately, their album didn't have anything else as radio-ready and the band just sort of came and went. Still, they were able to score this one memorable hit that has had a pretty good post-chart life.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song got a bit of a revival via a quirky hit film. In 2003, When in Rome member Clive Farrington got a phone call asking if "The Promise" could be used in an upcoming movie. The original trio agreed and the song was used in the 2004 comedy flick Napoleon Dynamite. The tune can be heard during the film and also over the end credits. The film, which starred Jon Heder as the title character, would go on to be a hit and that drew attention to "The Promise." The song would also be on the film's soundtrack album, which got to #147. Unfortunately, the song's resurgence did not reunite the original trio. Instead, it drove a wedge between two factions of the band along with a dispute concerning use of the band's name.

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Monday, October 4, 2021

"Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls" by Book of Love

Song#:  3633
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  90
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Synthpop, Alternative Dance


Pop Bits:  This Philly/NYC band officially came together in 1983. Made up of two high school friends, Ted Ottaviano and Susan Ottaviano (oddly, not related) along with Lauren Roselli and Jade Lee, the quartet's demo of a song titled "Boy" found its way to Sire Records who took a shot on the band. They re-recorded "Boy" and tossed it out as a single in 1985. It did well in clubs and ended up getting to #7 on the Dance chart. A second single, "I Touch Roses," did nearly as well getting to #8 Dance. The pair of hits had Sire calling for a full album and Book of Love's self-titled debut would get released in '86. The band also got hooked up opening for Depeche Mode on their tours, which helped to expand their audience. They finally got back in the studio in '87 to record their second album, Lullaby. To kick things off, this first single was issued out. Once again, it did well on the Dance chart getting to #5. The action there helped the song cross over to the Pop chart, but it would only circle the very bottom rungs for a month. I would be their only single to reach the Pop chart. The extra exposure helped the album make it to #156. A third album, 1991's Candy Carol, would sell a few copies and get to #174. Their 1991 LP Lovebubble would not chart, but it did contain the #4 Dance hit "Boy Pop." After that album, the band would split. Later in 2001, Reprise Records would release a compilation from the band titled I Touch Roses: The Best of Book of Love. A new remix of their first hit "Boy" would be issued as a single and it surprisingly went to #1 on the Dance chart. The band has reunited and performed together several times over the years.

ReduxReview:  Apparently, this was one of the first charting songs to contain lyrics that referenced the AIDS epidemic with "Strangers in the night, exchanging glances, but sex is dangerous, I don't take my chances." Weirdly, it also references a Frank Sinatra hit. The chugging tune had kind of a dark European synthpop feel, which was probably why they got paired up with Depeche Mode on their tour. Gurgling synths drove the tune while Susan Ottaviano's expressive alto creepily crawled over them. The track leaned towards goth, which was starting to invade college and indie radio. However, it wasn't something that was prime for Pop chart success. The band and the song are interesting late-80s curios.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The first track on Lullaby is a dance style remake of the 1974 #7 instrumental hit "Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield. The tune became popular thanks to its use in the hit 1973 horror classic The Exorcist. The song melded right into the next track, "Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls." In their "Tubular Bells" remake, band member Lauren Roselli imitated a line from the film said by its young star Linda Blair, "mother, make it stop!"  2) A song from their third album Candy Carol would end up having a horror movie connection as well. It would be picked up for use in the 1991 Oscar-winning thriller The Silence of the Lambs. Band member Lauren Roselli wanted to branch out into acting and ended up getting cast in a small roll in the film. It seems Book of Love was recording their album around the same time that Silence was being filmed and Roselli played "Sunny Day" for director Jonathan Demme. He liked it enough to use it in the background of a scene in the film. Roselli would also be cast in Demme's 1993 Philadelphia.

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Sunday, October 3, 2021

"Heart Don't Fail Me Now" by Holly Knight

Song#:  3632
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  59
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop


Pop Bits:  Holly Knight's career as a songwriter took off in the 80s with artists like Animotion, Aerosmith, Tina Turner, Scandal, and Heart earning Top 10 hits from her compositions. While that success was lucrative and rewarding, it seems Knight still had ambitions to not only write the music, but to perform it as well. She previously gave it a go as a member of two bands that each got a Pop Top 40 entry; Spider with the 1980 #39 "New Romance (It's a Mystery)," and Device with the 1986 #35 "Hanging on a Heart Attack." Still, that wasn't quite enough and so in '88 Knight decided to give a solo career a try. She got a deal with Columbia Records and set out to write and record a self-titled debut album. After finishing the LP with producer Chris Lord-Alge, this album opening track was selected to be the first single. It got on the Pop chart, but it didn't get very far peaking in the bottom half. A second single didn't generate any interest and due to those results, the album failed to chart and disappeared quickly along with Knight's solo career. It would be her only attempt at a solo album. Knight would then focus on her day job and continue to supply material for other artists. Oddly, with a solid list of hits to her name, none have resulted in a Grammy nomination for Knight.

ReduxReview:  So here's the problem with hit songwriters trying for a solo career. They obviously have a knack for coming up with great tracks for other artists, but what they fail to do is hold back at least a couple of their best songs for themselves. They are in the business of selling their works, so their best material will usually fall in the hands of an established artist and that leaves in their hands songs that they personally like, but perhaps wouldn't get picked up by anyone. Also, writing for yourself is different from an assignment where you are requested to write something specifically for an artist. Without that inspiration, you may not have come up with that one hit. Some songwriters made the transition, such as Carole King, but just as many fail and Knight was one of them. She had a couple of things going against her; the lack of a solid hit and a voice that was capable, but underwhelming. This single was arguably the best song on the LP and it was a good composition. However, it wasn't quite strong enough to cut through the competition and Knight's vocal didn't provide any power. Oddly, this sounds like a song that might have been a middling Top 40 hit back in the early 80s for someone like Jennifer Warnes or Karla Bonoff. I like the song, but it just wasn't going to be the one that could make Knight into a hit making solo star.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Does the male voice singing in the background of this song sound familiar? It should. It belongs to Daryl Hall. Around the time that Knight was recording her debut album, she had the opportunity to co-write a song with Hall for the '88 Hall & Oates album Ooh Yeah! The song "Soul Love" would appear on the album and would become the b-side to the #29 single "Missed Opportunity." Hall's vocal appearance on "Heart Don't Fail Me Now" was most likely a thank you for working on "Soul Love."  2) Also on Knight's debut LP was a remake of a hit she co-wrote with Mike Chapman for Pat Benatar. Knight would do her own take on "Love Is a Battlefield," which Benatar first recorded and took to #5 in '83. The song would earn Benatar her fourth consecutive Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Knight's take on the tune was different from Benatar's assertive rock version. Knight relaxed the tempo a bit and gave it a more strict 4/4 feel. She and Chapman originally wrote it as a ballad, but Benatar and her husband guitarist Neil Giraldo changed it to an uptempo synth-rock track. Knight's take doesn't take the tune all the way back to its ballad origins, but the mid-tempo rock arrangement was certainly different from Benatar's hit.

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Saturday, October 2, 2021

"What's the Matter Here?" by 10,000 Maniacs

Song#:  3631
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  80
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Alternative Rock


Pop Bits:  This band fronted by Natalie Merchant got on the Pop chart with "Like the Weather," a track from their third album In My Tribe. While it would only reach #68, exposure on MTV boosted the band and they slowly gained a following. This follow-up single was released and although its time on the chart was the same as their previous single, it peaked lower. However, it did become the band's first song to reach the Alternative Rock chart peaking at #9. By this point in time the LP had already peaked at #37 and reached platinum status. Later in 1998, it would go double-platinum.

ReduxReview:  Natalie Merchant and the band certainly had a strange way of taking heavy, sad topics and turning them into fluffy, happy sounding tracks that could make you sway and dance. "Like the Weather" was a perky tune about depression and then they followed it up with this groovy tune about child abuse. While it certainly wasn't the first time child abuse was the topic of a charting song (see "Luka" by Suzanne Vega, #3 Pop), it really wasn't the most uplifting subject for a pop single. Yet the Maniacs, like Vega, wrote lyrics from an observational point and then paired them with melodies and chords that made the subject matter easy to digest. It certainly worked well for Vega and probably should have with this single from the Maniacs, but unfortunately it just didn't catch on in a more mainstream way. Still, they were critical, college, and MTV darlings and they were far more popular than what the peaks of their first to charting singles would indicate.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The band's In My Tribe album was produced by Peter Asher. British-born Asher got started in entertainment as a child actor appearing in several films and TV show. He discovered music while attending school and before graduating began collaborating with fellow student Gordon Waller. By 1962, the pair began performing as Peter & Gordon. They would end up getting signed by Columbia Records in the UK (Capitol in the US). The duo had a bit of a lucky break in that Peter's sister Jane started dating Paul McCartney in 1963 (they would break up in '68). That connection led to Peter & Gordon recording some songs written by McCartney that the Beatles had not used or recorded including the duo's first single, 1964's "A World Without Love." The song would hit #1 in both the UK and the US making Peter & Gordon overnight stars. Over the next three years the duo would score three more Top 10s in both the UK and the US. With their career waning in '67, the duo then went on to do other things. Asher became the A&R head at Apple Records where he signed a new artist by the name of James Taylor. Asher produced his 1968 self-titled debut album, which didn't perform well. With high believe in Taylor, Asher quit Apple, moved to the States, and became Taylor's manager/producer. They would hit it big with Taylor's second album Sweet Baby James. Asher was then introduced to Linda Ronstadt and became her manager/producer. Over the years, Asher would produce works by many artists and would win three Grammys along the way.

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Friday, October 1, 2021

"Kokomo" by The Beach Boys

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  3630
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  96
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  28
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack


Pop Bits:  Like their 70s period, the 80s were a little rough for The Beach Boys. While they did manage to get three songs in the Pop Top 20, none of them truly reignited their career. They got a bit of a boost guesting on The Fat Boys' "Wipeout! (#12), but it didn't generate enough interest for them to pursue a new album (they hadn't released one in four years). Then they got an opportunity to write and record a song for an upcoming Tom Cruise flick titled Cocktail. The filmmakers wanted a song for a scene where Cruise goes from NYC to Jamaica and asked The Beach Boys to supply one. Working with producer Terry Melcher, the group (minus Brian Wilson) came up with "Kokomo" and it would be used in the film and placed on the soundtrack album. It would be issued out as a single in July of '88 prior to the film's release, but it didn't get any attention. Then the film turned into a box office hit and people picked up on the track. It would debut low on the Pop chart, but it quickly gained speed and ended up making it to #1. The last time The Beach Boys had a chart topper was with 1966's "Good Vibrations." At the time they set a record for the longest time between #1 hits (Cher would later break that record with her #1 "Believe" in 1999). The single would sell well enough to go platinum and it would help send the Cocktail soundtrack to #4. It would eventually sell over four million copies. The unexpected hit put the band in the spotlight once again it afforded them the opportunity to assemble a new album, which would be release nearly a year later in '89. Unfortunately, their sudden resurgence faded just as quickly and this song would be the band's last to make the Pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  This is a tune that I think is both loved and reviled. While a ton of people have enjoyed the breezy, Caribbean feel of the track with its sing-a-long lyrics, many folks have hated it with the tune even ended up on a few "worst" lists. I'm sort of half 'n' half. Sure, it's a goofy tune and when compared to a lot of The Beach Boys' catalog it pales in comparison. However, it is catchy ear candy and I find it difficult to not get caught up in its escapist sound and theme. It's fun to hear, but definitely not all the time. Once in a great while I'll get a kick out of the tune, but frankly I'd rather listen to most anything in the band's earlier catalog, especially Pet Sounds.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Many folks have heard of the town in Indiana by the name of Kokomo, but the song alludes to it being a place in the Florida Keys. Well, that place does not exist. The song's co-writer, John Phillips (of the Mamas & the Papas) thought Kokomo fit the tune well and chose it to represent a tropical paradise where folks could escape.  2) While Cocktail did do well at the box office, it was pretty much savaged by critics. It would go on to win two Golden Rapsberry Awards; Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay. Cruise was nominated for Worst Actor. Oddly, later in '88 Cruise starred in Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman. The film went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. That made Cruise thus far the only actor to star in a Worst Picture and Best Picture in the same year.

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Thursday, September 30, 2021

"The Loco-Motion" by Kylie Minogue

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3629
Date:  08/27/1988
Debut:  80
Peak:  3
Weeks:  27
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Hi-NRG


Pop Bits:  The Aussie singer got hooked up with the British Stock Aitken Waterman songwriting/production team and recorded her debut album Kylie. Its first single, "I Should Be So Lucky," performed fairly well reaching #28 Pop (#10 Dance). Next up for release was this cover tune. Minogue had recorded a version of the song earlier in '87 with producer Mike Duffy and it became a huge #1 hit in Australia. She then re-recorded the track with the SAW team for her debut album. It would be issued out as a single (except in Australia/New Zealand) and would become her second major hit making the Top 10 in many countries. In the US, the tune would get stuck in the #3 spot for a couple of weeks while getting to #12 Dance. It remained on the chart for quite a long time and that helped the single go gold. Minogue's debut album would then top out at #53. Eventually it would go gold.

ReduxReview:  The timing of this single was perfect. With Tiffany hitting #1 with her updated remake of "I Think We're Alone Now" and Rick Astley topping the chart with an SAW track, that combo of nostalgia along with a hip sound from a hot new production team was ideal for Minogue. It appealed to a wide audience and nearly topped the chart. I initially liked the song and even bought the single, but it soon wore me out. I tired of the track quickly and it became a bit annoying. But that was back when the song was constantly on the radio. These days I find it a fun little tune that has double nostalgia - first as a remake of a classic and then for its 80s trademark SAW production.
 
ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song that was originally a hit for Little Eva in 1962. Written by the famous team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Little Eva's single would hit #1 and be her only Top 10 hit. Later in 1974, American rock band Grand Funk Railroad covered the song and released it as a single. It too would reach the top of the Pop chart. "The Loco-Motion" then became only the second song to reach #1 by two different artists (seven other songs would later achieve that feat). The first instance occurred when Donny Osmond hit #1 in 1971 with another King/Goffin song "Go Away Little Girl." It had previously been a #1 single for Steve Lawrence in 1962. With Minogue's version reaching #3, "The Loco-Motion" then sort of set a record as being the first song to make the Pop Top 3 three times in three different decades. Oddly, although the lyrics stated that "everybody's doin' a brand new dance now," there was no specific loco-motion dance when the original single was released. As it started to become a hit, Little Eva had to create one for her performances.

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