Tuesday, January 26, 2021

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Michael Bolton

Song#:  3386
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  72
Peak:  11
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Bolton's The Hunger album was his fifth solo attempt to break through to the masses and while it wasn't a major hit at the time, it was a significant step forward. The LP's first single, "That's What Love Is All About," became his first to crack the Pop Top 40 peaking at #19 (#3 AC). Then for a follow-up, this cover tune was issued out. It did even better by nearly making the Pop Top 10, stopping at the dreaded #11 spot, while getting to #12 Rock, #19 AC, and #58 R&B. The two hits helped the album sell well and get to #46. His next album, 1989's Soul Provider, would be a much bigger hit, which then led folks back to The Hunger. Late in '89, both albums would be certified gold sellers. The Hunger would go on to sell over 2 million copies.

ReduxReview:  Ugh, I have been dreading this one. Otis Redding's original was just so perfect. The arrangement, the production, the vocal, the lyrics, and especially the feeling that it exuded. Oh, and the whsitle...c'mon. Whenever I hear it, the tune just transports me. I want to grab a cocktail and make my way to a dock that jets out over a beautiful, peaceful body of water and just marvel at the world and life in general. You can feel exactly what Redding was writing about and the serene, mellow way the song was recorded only enhanced the experience. It was brilliant. Still is. Now, why on this blue/green earth would anyone want to cover this classic? I get that it probably influenced artists and it may have been a favorite, but besides just having fun and covering it in concert, why would someone just absolutely mess this up by recording a version of it? And releasing it as a single? Redding's sons did it (see below), but I can sort give a pass to that one as it was more of a tribute, but anyone else doing it is just not going to sit right with me. Bolton's take is certainly one of the worst. It's like he sucked the life blood out of the tune with an unnecessarily big arrangement and a caterwauling vocal that didn't make me want to sit on the dock of the bay, but jump off of it and swim away! It took everything that made the original so amazing and tossed it in the trash. Every second of it makes me cringe. Others apparently loved it and that's okay. If they can appreciate this song, even from this horrific remake, then at least Redding's art and legacy can live on. As for me, I'd be happy to never, ever hear this desecration of a classic again.

ReduxRating:  0/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally co-written (with Steve Cropper) and recorded by Otis Redding. Redding cut the track late in 1967. It was finished on December 7th. Three days later, Redding would die in a plane crash. The song was released as a single in January of '68 and it became an instant smash topping both the Pop and R&B charts. It would also go on to win two Grammys. The classic song would be covered by many artists with six versions reaching the Pop chart including ones by Sammy Hagar and The Reddings. Bolton's version has been the most successful of the remakes on the Pop chart and as of this posting date it has been the last one to chart. Bolton's version got a big nod of approval from Redding's widow Zelma. After hearing his version, she wrote Bolton a letter that said it was her all-time favorite cover version of the song.


Monday, January 25, 2021

"How Can I Forget You" by Elisa Fiorillo

Song#:  3385
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  78
Peak:  60
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Fiorillo first got on the Pop chart when she supplied the lead vocal to "Who Found Who," a track from producer/remixer Jellybean's 1986 album Just Visiting This Planet. The pair were labelmates on Chrysalis and as "Who Found Who" was shaping up to be a hit, Fiorillo began to prep her own debut album. The self-titled effort would be released at the end of '87 as was this single. It would be a minor entry on the Dance chart getting to #47. The tune then crossed over to Pop where it peaked in the bottom half of the chart. The LP would get to a minor #163.

ReduxReview:  While Fiorillo wasn't really a Madonna wannabe, I think Chrysalis tried to push her into True Blue territory as several songs, including this one, had a bit of a Madonna smell to them. It didn't help matters that two of Madonna's former associates, including Reggie Lucas, produced tracks on the LP. This song was written and produced by Gardner Cole, who unsurprisingly also worked with Madonna. He co-wrote "Open Your Heart" for the True Blue album. He must have liked the "True Blue" track because this one has that similar retro pop feel, just with a quicker tempo. Again, it is not a copy, but it certainly feels like that Madonna influence was there along with a whiff of Lisa Lisa. In general, it is not a bad tune. It bops along just fine and it has a nice chorus. Fiorillo's girlish voice fits the song as well. I don't think it was destined to become a major hit, but it probably should have done a bit better.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  When video games first came along, many featured their own electronic sounds or even little tunes to enhance the game. These sounds started to become recognizable and popular and it wasn't long before artists used them in their own songs. Electronic music pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra used sounds from the arcade game Circus for their 1978 #60 Pop single "Computer Game." Then in 1984, YMO member Haruomi Hosono recorded the album Video Game Music. Created from samples of arcade games, it is usually seen as the first video game music album. From there, the business of video game music took off and the more elaborate the games got, the more complex the music became. Now there are full scores being created for video games along with popular hit songs being licensed for use in games such as the Grand Theft Auto series and Guitar Hero. So what does this have to do with Elisa Fiorillo? She ended up singing a song for a video game. For the 2004 action-adventure game Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Fiorillo sang the tune "Don't Be Afraid." Written by Japanese musician/composer Rika Muranaka, the song played at the end of the game. The video game was a hit with critics and it sold well.


Sunday, January 24, 2021

"Coming Up You" by The Cars

Song#:  3384
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  80
Peak:  74
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  The Cars' sixth studio album, Door to Door, did not perform according to expectations. Its first single, "You Are the Girl," failed to make the Pop Top 10 while a second single couldn't even reach the top half of the chart. The final blow came with this third single, which stalled near the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. The track failed to make the Rock chart, but did make a brief appearance on the AC chart at #37. Without a more significant hit to support the album, it would only be a gold seller and their lowest charting (#26) effort. The band was already a bit fractured at the time and the results probably didn't do much to entice them to stay together and in April of '88, the band did indeed called it quits.

ReduxReview:  This tinkling little confection was probably the best track from a lackluster album. It was a lovely little pop ditty written by Ric Ocasek and sung by Benjamin Orr. It wasn't something that ranked among their classics, but it was a nice track that got overlooked. The tune wasn't going to be a Top 10 contender, but it certainly deserved to get up into the Top 40. It would end up being the band's last song to reach the Pop chart and even though it didn't get far, it was a nice tune to go out on.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After the band dissolved, the members went out and did their own projects. Ric Ocasek had perhaps the most high-profile post-Cars career issuing out five solo albums (following his two done while with The Cars) and doing production work for artists like Weezer and No Doubt. Benjamin Orr performed with his own band, ORR, along with a couple of other side bands. He attempted to record a second solo album, but it never came to fruition. Orr died in 2002 from pancreatic cancer. Two other members, Greg Hawks and Elliot Easton, got together with Todd Rundgren in 2005 and toured as The New Cars for a few years. The surviving members of The Cars got back together in 2011 and recorded the LP Move Like This. It would receive good notices and debut at #7. A tour would follow. They would reunite once more in 2018 to perform for their induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2019, Ric Ocasek would die of natural causes at age 75.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

"Save Your Love" by Great White

Song#:  3383
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  81
Peak:  57
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  As they say, third time's the charm and that seemed to be the case for Great White. Their third album, Once Bitten, was their breakthrough hitting #23 and going platinum on the strength of its first single, the #9 Rock/#60 Pop track "Rock Me," along with this second single. The power ballad nearly replicated the results of their previous single by also hitting #9 at Rock and getting near the top half of the Pop chart. A third track, "Lady Red Light," would get to #47 at Rock. The success of the album set them up well for their next effort.

ReduxReview:  With other glam/hard rock bands scoring Top 40 hits with power ballads, I was surprised that this one didn't do better on the chart. It was quite popular, at least in my area, and it had all the trademark power ballad assets needed to get it over to pop radio, yet for some reason it didn't catch on in a bigger way. Perhaps it was a bit too languid for pop radio with its quiet opening and unhurried tempo. Regardless, it became a staple for the band and I thought it was quite well-done.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was written by lead singer Jack Russell along with Stephan John Williams. Williams, who went by Stephan Shawn, was a guitarist for the L.A. band Stormer. They were regulars on the Sunset Strip hard rock scene in the 70s and 80s along with other bands like Great White. Stormer was around for a long time, but never got the break that other bands of the era did. They came close once when they recorded a holiday single for the indie Rockwoodz label. Stephan Shawn wrote the a-side song "Yule Tide Fever." The single was released in 1981 and got some good buzz. An album was to follow, but then the label folded and the band was on their own again. Eventually the band would call it a day. At the time the single was recorded and released, Stormer's bassist was Tim Gaines. In 1983, Gaines would leave Stormer and join a newly formed Christian rock band called Stryper. They would grab their first mainstream hit with 1987's "Honestly" (#23 Pop).


Friday, January 22, 2021

"Never Knew Love Like This" by Alexander O'Neal featuring Cherrelle

Song#:  3382
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  28
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  O'Neal's second album, Hearsay, became a #2 R&B/#29 Pop gold seller thanks in part to its first single, "Fake," which got to #1 R&B and #25 Pop. A second single, "Criticize," did well at R&B (#4), but couldn't break through at Pop (#70). Next up for release was this duet single. It was the second pairing of O'Neal and Cherrelle. The first time they teamed up was for "Saturday Love," a track from Cherrelle's 1986 LP High Priority. It would be released as a single and get to #2 R&B/#26 Pop. This second duet would nearly duplicate those results. It would also get to #2 R&B while cracking the Pop Top 30. It also got to #24 at Dance. Two more singles would be released from O'Neal's album, but neither were able to reach the R&B Top 40.

ReduxReview: O'Neal's "Criticize" was a solid tune that should have done better at Pop, but the label should have pushed this song as the second single. If they had, it might have done better. The tune itself was hooky and well-written and had that sleek Jam & Lewis production that was ripe for pop airplay. The strength of the song was on display since it overcame the underwhelming results on the Pop chart of "Criticize." This was an obvious hit that should have made or gotten close to the Pop Top 10.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Although O'Neal would record a holiday album in 1988 titled My Gift to You, his proper third album wouldn't arrive until after the turn of the decade. In 1991, he released All True Man. O'Neal would once again work with the Jam & Lewis team for the LP and the title track would be released as a single. It would become O'Neal's sixth and final R&B Top 10 (#5). However, he wasn't able to grab much crossover attention and the song stalled at #43 on the Pop chart. Still, the album would be a gold-seller. His career would cool off after that. He would continue to record albums over the years, but none would take him back to his hit making days with Jam & Lewis. While successful in the US, O'Neal was even more popular in the UK. He would secure one multi-platinum and four gold selling albums.


Thursday, January 21, 2021

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by The California Raisins

Song#:  3381
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  84
Peak:  84
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B, Novelty

Pop Bits:  In the early/mid 80s, the sales of love 'em or loathe 'em raisins were steadily declining. The California Raisin Advisory Board (CALRAB) was hunting for a way to promote raisins. Ad man Seth Werner and his writing partner Dexter Fedor came up with an offbeat idea for the board. The concept was actually simple. A group of raisins dancing to the Marvin Gaye hit "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." Apparently, when it came time for his presentation to CALRAB, Werner simply started a tape player with the song and began dancing around the room. Werner wanted to do a claymation commercial that gave a quartet of raisins identities and personalities. Then have them perform "Grapevine." Although the board had wanted a celebrity spokesperson, they liked the idea and Werner's pitch enough to give it a go. It took over a month to film the commercial, which first aired on September 26, 1986. It was a success, but more than that the ad spurred a pop culture phenomenon. The claymation raisin group became known as The California Raisins and not only did it help boost the sales of raisins, but other merchandise would follow such as plush toys, lunch boxes, clothing, and costumes. Then there was an appearance on the Emmy award winning TV special A Claymation Christmas Celebration. With the Raisins' popularity still growing, it was inevitable that an album would be recorded. Produced and arranged by Ross Vannelli (brother of singer Gino Vannelli), Sing the Hit Song by The California Raisins was released late in '87 on Priority Records. This first single was released and it spent a quick month near the bottom of the Pop chart. The album, however, did very well getting to #36 and selling over a million copies. Three more albums would follow quickly along with a mockumentary TV special Meet the Raisins! and a Saturday morning cartoon series. However, like most pop culture phenoms, the Raisins' days in the sun faded and by 1990 it was becoming too expensive for CALRAB to keep up the promotions and the campaign came to an end.

ReduxReview:  These commercials were all over TV in the late 80s. They were memorable and kind of fun. I think the MJ one (see below) was pretty funny and well done. However, I really didn't think we needed the whole commercialism of a commercial-based group (is that double commercializing?). Because they were everywhere, the Raisins wore out their welcome quick with me. I certainly didn't need an album of remade old hits by "raisins" either. Yet, it seems other people did (apparently over a million). The only good thing from it is that perhaps a few people who heard the songs went back and bought the originals. Usually, this promotional, novelty-style of single I would abhor as they are, for the most part, poorly done and are just cashing in on a moment. While the latter is a true statement with this single, I have to say that the actual recording is not all that bad. Producer Ross Vannelli did a solid job taking a cheesy, promotional gimmick and turning it into a solid track. The lead vocals (see below) were also well done. Would I buy this? No. Do I ever need to hear it again? No. Still, as the touchstone for a pop culture moment, it certainly wasn't bad.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) So who provided the main vocal for The California Raisins? The lead vocal done for the original commercial was handled by singer/drummer Buddy Miles. Miles was known for being a member of the blues rock band The Electric Flag and for his work with Jimi Hendrix. He also recorded several solo albums along with works by his band Buddy Miles Express. Miles would be the lead vocalist for three of the California Raisins albums. For the fourth one that was tied to the TV special Meet the Raisins, other vocalists were used with Andy Stokes taking over the character that was voiced by Miles.  2) How hot were the Raisins? So much so that celebrities got involved. A claymation version of Ray Charles was created and he sings "Grapevine" with the Raisins (in the style of the Gladys Knight version, not Marvin Gaye's). However, the big endorsement came when Michael Jackson came on board. Jackson worked with the animators to come up with claymation versions of him as a raisin (complete with top hat and white glove) and as himself. Jackson performs a "Bad"-ish style version of "Grapevine" for the commercial.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"All I Want Is You" by Carly Simon

Song#:  3380
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  54
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Simon's comeback album, the platinum-selling Coming Around Again, featured two songs that reached the Pop chart including the #18 title track (#5 AC). However, its third single, "The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of," failed to reach the Pop chart despite getting to #8 at AC. Still, her label, Arista, decided to push out a fourth single and selected this song. Unsurprisingly, it was another winner at AC getting to #7. This time around, the single was able to get on the Pop chart where it got close to the halfway mark. It would be the last single released from the album. Simon would have one more single reach the Pop chart before the decade would be out, but she wouldn't release a new album until 1990.

ReduxReview:  I was so disappointed when "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" failed to make the Pop chart. It's such a great song and it deserved more attention. But it seems that pop radio preferred something more upbeat and, well...poppy. So the label gave this one a go. It was a solid choice and while it wasn't quite as good as the previous three singles, it was still a nice tune.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Simon and Jacob Brackman. The two had been good friends since meeting at a summer camp in 1968 where they worked as counselors. Brackman, who had worked as a journalist, would collaborate with Simon over the years writing lyrics to music that she wrote. All except one of Simon's albums from her 1971 debut through to Coming Around Again featured a song by the pair. Two of their collaborations became Top 20 hits. Simon's debut single, "That's the Way I Always Heard It Should Be," reached #10 in 1971 while "Haven't Got Time for the Pain" made it to #14 in 1974.


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

"Father Figure" by George Michael

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3379
Date:  01/16/1988
Debut:  49
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  The title track to Michael's first solo effort, Faith, became a major hit reaching #1 and staying there for four weeks. It was also a gold-selling single. For a follow-up, Michael changed the pace and pushed out this ballad. In his UK homeland, the song did okay peaking at #11. It was Michael's first single to not make the Top 10. The story was different in the US where the song scaled the chart to become his second #1 in a row. It also did very well at other formats getting to #3 AC and #6 R&B. The groovy ballad also made it to #13 at Dance, which was unusual because it was just the album version and not a dance-style remix. The hit would certainly push sales of the album, which would reach 4 million by May of '88.

ReduxReview:  This was a perfect follow-up to two pop/dance tracks. Michael always had a way to elicit every ounce of emotion from his ballads and this one was no exception. The delicate lilting groove of the tune was like a cloud you could float away on while the chorus gave the track a hooky punch. I've always like Michael's performance on the song and consider it one of his best.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) It was extra strange that this song made the Dance chart because Michael originally intended the tune to be a mid-tempo dance track. While working with the song in the studio, Michael took out the snare drum in order to hear something else in the mix. When he played the tune without the snare, it had a dream-like quality that he really dug. He ended up leaving the snare out and turned the track into a ballad instead.  2) This song's associated video was directed by Michael with Andy Morahan. It would win the pair an MTV Music Video Award for Best Direction in a Video. It also received a nomination for Best Cinematography.  3) This song has been sampled several times over the years, but perhaps the most well-known use of the song came in 1993. That was when the hip-hop/R&B duo P.M. Dawn sampled the tune for "Looking Through Patient Eyes," a track from their second disc The Bliss Album...? It served as the LP's second single and got to #6 Pop.


Monday, January 18, 2021

"I Get Weak" by Belinda Carlisle

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3378
Date:  01/16/1988
Debut:  54
Peak:  2
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Carlisle's second solo album, Heaven on Earth, got off to a great start with its initial single "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" topping the Pop chart. It would be the first (and only) time an ex-Go-Go would have a #1 Pop single. Even the Go-Go's missed the top spot when "We Got the Beat" got stuck at #2 in 1982. Carlisle nearly had a second #1 when this follow-up single was released. Unfortunately, it stopped just short of the apex at #2. It was Carlisle's third solo Top 10 hit. The song also made it to #9 at AC. Just as this song was debuting on the Pop chart, Carlisle's album would be certified platinum.

ReduxReview:  I always thought this song had a 60s feel to it. Perhaps something about mid-decade produced by Phil Spector. The song was well-written by Diane Warren and expertly produced by Rick Nowels. It fit Carlisle and was a perfect follow-up to "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." It should have hit #1, but got blocked by Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." The big one-two punch of hits from Carlisle set her up as a pop diva, which was a far cry from her punk roots. However, if you are going to evolve, why not move forward with a pair of expertly crafted pop tunes? Carlisle was at the peak of her powers during this time.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:   When Diane Warren finished writing this song, she thought it would be a good vehicle for Stevie Nicks and presented it to Rick Nowels, who had produced several tracks for Stevie Nick's 1985 LP Rock a Little. Warren was familiar with Nowels as she had written "Don't Lose Any Sleep," a song Nowels produced for John Waite's 1987 LP Rover's Return. While Nowels liked "I Get Weak," he thought it was a better fit for Belinda Carlisle than Nicks and was able to secure the tune for Carlisle's album. It seems that Nicks never even got a crack at the tune. It may not have worked out anyway because for her fourth album, The Other Side of the Mirror, Nicks chose to work with producer Rupert Hine.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

"Just Like Paradise" by David Lee Roth

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3377
Date:  01/16/1988
Debut:  56
Peak:  6
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Roth's first full-length solo album, Eat 'Em and Smile, became a platinum seller that was helped along by the #10 Rock/#16 Pop hit "Yankee Rose." After his tour in support of the LP, Roth got back into the studio to record a follow-up. His next effort would be titled Skyscraper and this first single got the ball rolling. It would do very well at Rock becoming Roth's first (and only) song to top that chart. The song also made an impression at Pop where it got to #6. It was Roth's second and final single to make the Top 10.  The song helped the album get to #6 and by the end of March of '88 it would be certified platinum.

ReduxReview:  This blast of arena rock with a distinct commercial edge was something that Roth hadn't necessarily done since leaving Van Halen (excluding his pop remakes). It was far more radio-ready than the more raucous "Yankee Rose" with a hooky chorus that was indelible. You could hear shades of VH along with a little Foreigner and even Journey tossed in. The track was expertly crafted and it was an easy choice for a lead single. Rock radio and its listeners ate it up and it didn't take too long for Pop to catch on. A few folks balked that Roth had gone too far towards mainstream pop, but I thought it was a natural fit for him and the right move at the time. As for the Skyscraper album, it was a little odd. There were hard rockin' tracks, near prog-rock/psychedelic tunes like the title track (which I liked), along with a Led Zeppelin-ish ballad. It didn't gel into a cohesive work, but individual parts, such as this single, showcased Roth's solo career at its best.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The cover of Skyscraper featured Roth hanging on a mountain face and this song's associated video contained scenes of him climbing and standing atop a rock formation. So did Roth actually do the rock climbing or was it all photo trickery? Ends up it was actually Roth. While not necessarily a professional, it seems that Roth had been climbing since he was a kid in the Boy Scouts. For the album images and "Just Like Paradise" video, Roth or someone in his camp thought that perhaps mountains or high rock formations would help punctuate the Skyscraper title and that Roth could be filmed rock climbing, since he had experience. David Breashears, a photographer and filmmaker who became the first American to reach the top of Mt. Everest for a second time in 1985, was hired on to film Roth's climb. The climb took place at the Half Dome at Yosemite National Park in California. Rock climbing is slow and tedious, so for the video action images of Roth's climb were interspersed between a stage performance of the song by Roth and his band. Breashears would go on to co-direct the 1998 IMAX film Everest, which remains the highest grossing IMAX movie ever.


Saturday, January 16, 2021

"Be Still My Beating Heart" by Sting

Song#:  3376
Date:  01/16/1988
Debut:  64
Peak:  15
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Sting got his third Pop Top 10 hit with "We'll Be Together," the lead track from his second solo album ...Nothing Like the Sun. To follow it up, this ballad was selected for release. Oddly, the track was only released in a few territories including the US while the second single in most countries was "Englishman in New York" (which would be the third single in the US). Whatever the reasons were for pushing this song out next in the US, it was a pretty good decision at the time as the song got to #2 at Rock while cracking the Pop Top 20. It also reached #37 at AC. The results were good enough to further sales of the album, which had just gone platinum at the end of '87.

ReduxReview:  Here's a Top 20 "hit" that I'm sure I haven't heard since it was originally released. How this song made it that far is a mystery. The dark and moody track played like a piece of Pink Floyd-ish prog rock so it was no surprise it did well at Rock. However, there was nothing about this tune that would indicate it could do well at Pop. I'm only guessing that Sting's popularity at the time along with a push from MTV might have helped it along. It's a good track with some jazzy influences along with shades of Sade. Still, it was a bizarre choice for a single. Sting lucked out and it ended up doing okay, but really, when was the last time you heard this played anywhere? Good album track, weird single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The opening track on ...Nothing Like the Sun was "The Lazarus Heart." From what I've read, the song may have been written for Sting's mother. Indeed, the whole album was dedicated to her as she had passed away from cancer in the summer of '87. However, the song was nearly used in a hit film. The original script for 1988 live-action/animated comedy Who Framed Roger Rabbit? had the main character of Roger dying at the end. Then to finish off the film, Sting's "The Lazarus Heart" was going to be used. However, being a Disney-based film, the death of a lead character was pretty much a no-no. Roger was given a reprieve and survived in the film. Unfortunately, Sting's song did not and it got axed. Sting then kept the song for himself and included it on ...Nothing Like the Sun. Apparently, Sting was also considered for the villain role of Judge Doom, but it ultimately went to Christopher Lloyd. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? would go on to be a major box office hit. It would be nominated for six technical Oscars winning three.


Friday, January 15, 2021

"I Want Her" by Keith Sweat

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3375
Date:  01/16/1988
Debut:  77
Peak:  5
Weeks:  20
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  This Harlem-born singer/songwriter became a purveyor of New Jack Swing and went on to be one of the top R&B artists of the 90s earning six platinum album (three multi-platinum) along with two platinum and three gold singles. Sweat got his start in the mid-70s performing with the NYC band Jamilah. Eventually he became the lead singer. The group was popular in New York and surrounding areas, but it seems they never got a shot at something bigger. After nine years with Jamilah, Sweat decided to go solo. He signed on with the newly formed indie label Stadium and released a couple of singles in '84 and '85 that didn't get much attention. Sweat finally got a break when he signed with the Elektra off-shoot label Vintertainment. When it came time to record an album, Sweat sought out the help of Teddy Riley, a musician/producer who had been in a rival band of Jamilah's. Riley had been working with hip-hop artists at the time and was reluctant to move over to R&B, but finally acquiesced. The pair would go on to co-write and co-produce Sweat's debut LP Make It Last Forever. This distinctive first single was released late in '87 and in January of '88 it reached #1 at R&B. Its popularity then began to spread to pop stations and it slowly caught fire. It would eventually reach the Pop Top 10 while getting to #38 Dance. The record would become Sweat's first to go gold. The hit pushed his album to #1 at R&B and #15 Pop. By the end of May, the album would be platinum. Eventually it would sell over 3 million copies.

ReduxReview:  There will most likely always be debates about what was the first New Jack hit. Some say Janet Jackson's "Nasty" kicked things off. While that tune may have had some influence, I've always though LeVert's "Casanova" truly kicked off the genre even though New Jack wasn't identified as such as the time. Others think that this song marked the line in the sand, especially since the first mention of New Jack as a style came in an interview with Riley in the Village Voice in October of '87, not long after "I Want Her" was released. Indeed, this song certainly pushed New Jack to the limelight and helped Riley become the defacto "King of New Jack Swing." I certainly took notice of this song back in the day. I thought it had a distinct sound with the swinging synths and propulsive beats. Sweat's vocal was perfect over an arrangement and production that made the tune radio-ready. The chorus with Riley supplying the "I Want Her" was super hooky as well. It blazed a trail for a new genre and the track still sounds great today.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  It seems this song caused a bit of a rift between Sweat and Riley. Riley, who had already assembled the beats and backgrounds for "I Want Her" prior to meeting up with Sweat in the studio, wanted Sweat to put a bit of a nasal tone in his vocal for the song. Riley said it would sound new and different and make Sweat stand out. Sweat balked at the idea because that was not how he sang. Apparently, the discussion was tempestuous enough that, according to an interview with Riley in The Atlantic, Sweat walked out of the studio. However, after a cooling off period, Riley finally convinced Sweat to give it a shot. In the end, Sweat's vocal combined with Riley's new jack sound resulted in a major hit.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

"Wishing Well" by Terence Trent D'Arby

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3374
Date:  01/16/1988
Debut:  79
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  R&B, Soul, Funk

Pop Bits:  After having great success with his debut album in the UK, D'Arby then came home to the States to conquer the charts as well, yet his first single failed to impress. "If You Let Me Stay" would only get to #19 R&B and #68 Pop. The results didn't bode well for him or his album, but then this next single was pushed out. It got off to a slow start, but luckily MTV hooked into it and put the video in heavy rotation. That helped the song move up the chart and after a lengthy 17 weeks it would reach #1 at Pop. It also got to #1 R&B while getting to #7 Dance and #44 AC. It would end up becoming a gold single. The hit sparked sales of the album and the same week "Wishing Well" hit #1, the LP would reach its peak of #4. By that point it had already become a platinum seller as well.

ReduxReview:   This sparsely arranged track was a bit of an old funk throwback. The hooky chorus along with that whistling synth line and D'Arby's gruff, soulful voice created something unique that caught the attention of radio listeners. The associated video that featured D'Arby's fascinating look (ooo - that hair!) and interesting dance moves only upped the ante and helped to make the song ready for prime time. It certainly grabbed my ears and I promptly went out and got the album. While D'Arby would go on to release some interesting (and even frustrating) material, this was his peak moment.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  With his first single, "If You Let Me Stay," being released in time for the '87 Grammy Awards, D'Arby was able to secure a nomination for Best New Artist. By the time that award was being handed out in March of '88, "Wishing Well" had just cracked the Pop Top 40. He would lose the award to Jody Watley. However, D'Arby's debut album didn't hit shelves until after the '87 eligibility period. That made it available for the '88 awards. D'Arby would then go on to win the award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

"Love Overboard" by Gladys Knight & the Pips

Grammy Alert!
Song#:  3373
Date:  01/09/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  13
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The last time Knight & the Pips were on the Pop chart was back in 1983 with "Save the Overtime (For Me)." The #1 R&B hit got to #66 at Pop. The associated album, Visions, would get to #34 Pop/#3 R&B and go gold. Their follow-up album, 1985's Life, didn't do nearly as well. None of its singles made the R&B Top 10 and none reached the Pop chart. During this time period, Knight did a couple of successful side projects without the Pips. Having tested the waters, Knight then decided it was time for her to go solo. Before kicking it off, Knight and the Pips got together for one more group effort. They moved over to MCA Records and recorded All Our Love. This first single introduced the LP and it easily climbed to the #1 spot at R&B. The song then caught on over at Pop and it became the group's first Top 20 entry since 1975 when they got to #11 with "The Way We Were/Try to Remember." It would also be their last single to make the Pop chart. The track also got to #4 Dance and #45 AC. The LP's second single, "Livin' on Next to Nothin'," became a #3 hit at R&B while getting to #10 Dance. The two songs helped the album reach #1 R&B and #39 Pop. It would also be a gold seller with "Love Overboard" securing the group a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. It was their third career Grammy. They couldn't have asked for a better way to end their 27-year run on the charts.

ReduxReview:  This track, written and co-produced by Reggie Calloway, was a terrific selection for the group. It made Knight and the Pips just as relevant in the late 80s as they were when they got their first chart entry in 1967. Unfortunately, the album didn't have another killer mainstream track like this. If Calloway had stayed on for a couple of more tunes with hit potential, the LP might have been the biggest one of their career. Still, this song and its follow-up were a great way for the group to grab some chart glory before calling it a day.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) While Gladys Knight officially kicked off her solo career following her final tour with the Pips in support of All Our Love,  she did previously record two solo album while still with the Pips. She released Miss Gladys Knight in 1978 and Gladys Knight in 1979. Neither sold well and each generated one low entry on the R&B singles chart. After ending her time with the Pips, Knight stayed on with MCA Records and recorded her third solo effort, 1991's Good Woman. The LP would reach #1 at R&B (#45 Pop) thanks to the #2 hit "Men" and the #19 "Superwoman" recorded with Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle. Neither single made the Pop chart. Her follow-up album, 1994's Just for You, would get to #6 R&B/#53 Pop. However, despite not featuring any major hits, save for the #6 Dance entry "Next Time," the album sold very well and became her only solo effort to go gold. Knight would get one last R&B Top 10 in 1996. She along with Chaka Khan, Brandy, and Tamia would record "Missing You," a track used for the soundtrack to the film Set It Off. The track would get to #10 R&B, #25 Pop, and #30 AC. Knight would continue to record albums over the years and would be a top concert attraction.  2) Prior to recording her 1991 solo album, a solo Knight recorded a couple of film soundtrack songs. The first was a 1996 duet with Bill Medley for the Sylvester Stallone action flick Cobra. The song "Living on Borrowed Time (Love Theme from Cobra)" was released as a single and it got to #16 AC. Then Knight joined the list of artists who got to record a theme song for a James Bond movie. She recorded the title track to 1989's License to Kill, the second and last Bond film to star Timothy Dalton. While the track would be a #6 hit in the UK, it became the second James Bond theme in a row to miss the US Pop chart after a-ha's "The Living Daylights" failed to chart. The next three Bond themes (by Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, and Garbage) would miss as well in the US. It would take Madonna to turn things around. She got to #8 in 2002 with "Die Another Day."


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Milestone! The Year in Review: 1987

Eight years down, two to go! It has been quite the project, but it has been rewarding and a ton o' fun.
As for 1987, it sounded a lot like 1986. There was little new ground broken. Rap was still trying to make a bigger impact in a mainstream way. The Stock Aitken Waterman team was still chuggin' along. Madonna and Whitney Houston were continuing their hit streaks. However, there were a few newsworthy things to note. U2 broke through in a huge way with their Grammy-winning album The Joshua Tree, which put the band on the fast track to superstardom. Right alongside of them was George Michael and his solo debut Faith. The year saw two artists return with follow-ups to massive selling albums. Michael Jackson finally followed up his 1982 Thriller with Bad while Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love served as his formal follow-up to 1984's Born in the U.S.A. Latin Freestyle music continued to grow on the chart while folks began to take notice of New Jack Swing. CDs were becoming more popular and beginning to eat into the sales of vinyl as the 45 RPM single format continued its decline. Movie soundtracks were still big business as evidenced by Dirty Dancing's 18 weeks at #1.

According to my personal stats, it seems I enjoyed '87 a bit more than '86. There was a good increase in songs that I rated a 10 from 8 in '86 to 12 in '87. Typically, my Top 5 favorite songs of the year list showcases a variety of styles, artists and genres, but for '87 it was rock heavy. It was also male-centric with all five songs led by men with only an appearance by Dusty Springfield to break up the boys club. This was completely opposite from '86, which featured four female-led tracks with the fifth done by a male/female group. This was also the first year where one act took the top two slots on my Top 5 - U2. It also marks the third time in the decade that a John Cougar Mellencamp song made the Top 5 list. The feat ties him with with Eurythmics for the most appearances in my year-end Top 5 list.

I'm still enjoying this project and I hope anyone who encounters the blog will have fun as well. Keep reading, pass it along to friends, feel free to send comments, and don't forget to "Rate It!" at the bottom of each post. Here is a recap of 1987:

Number of charted songs in 1986:  392  (401 in 1986)
Time it took listen/post all songs:  1 year, 31 days  (1 year, 36 days for 1986)
Number of songs that debuted in 1987 to hit #1:  32  (30 in 1986)
Number of songs that debuted in 1987 to reach the Top 10 (excluding #1's):  79  (81 in 1986)
Number of gold singles:  14  (17 in 1986)
Number of platinum singles: (1 in 1986)
Number of songs that won a Grammy:  (6 in 1986)
Number of One-Hit Wonders:  (6 in 1986)
Number of Rated 10 songs:  12  (8 for 1986)
Number of Rated 1 songs:  (0 for 1986)
Top 5 favorite chart songs of the year:
  1. "With or Without You" by U2
  2. "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2
  3. "Cherry Bomb" by John Cougar Mellencamp
  4. "Tunnel of Love" by Bruce Springsteen
  5. "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" by Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield
Worst song of the year:  "Lean on Me" by Club Nouveau
Best song I didn't know existed:  "Love Is Contageous" by Taja Sevelle
Favorite discovery: KTP's album Certain Things Are Likely
 A few other fun stats:

Highest debut:  #37 - "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" by Michael Jackson (peaked at #1)
Lowest debut:  #99 - "Hold Me" by Colin James Hay (peaked at #99)

Longest climb to peak position:  "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by Kim Wilde climbed 95 positions from #96 to #1

Longest trip to #1 for a song debuting in 1987:  "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake took 15 weeks to reach #1
Quickest trip to #1 for a song debuting in 1987:  "Lean on Me" by Club Nouveau and "Bad" by Michael Jackson both took 6 weeks to reach #1.
Most weeks at #1 for a song debuting in 1987:  4 - "Faith" by George Michael

Most weeks on the chart for a song debuting in 1987:  30 - "In My Dreams" by REO Speedwagon (it peaked at #19).

Average number of weeks a song spent on the chart:  13
Position on chart where the most songs debuted:  #91 - 25 songs debuted at that spot (2 hit the Top 10)
Longest song title:  "Can'tcha Say (You Still Believe in Me)/Still in Love " by Boston
Shortest song title:  "Bad" by Michael Jackson

A few artists who got their first chart single in 1987: Boy George, Crowded House, Debbie Gibson, Exposé, Jody Watley, Kenny G, LL Cool J, Poison, Rick Astley, Salt-N-Pepa, Suzanne Vega, Terence Trent D'Arby, Tiffany

Runners-Up:  9 songs peaked at #2, 2 songs peaked at #11, and 1 songs peaked at #41

Some interesting things learned (click links for more details in previous posts): 
  • The Swedish band Deep Sunshine was captured on video (posted on YouTube) performing Europe's "The Final Countdown." It's considered by many to be the worst cover song ever done. 
  • The three women who ultimately made up the vocal group Exposé were all replacements for the original line-up who were either fired or left just prior to recording the debut album.
  • Billy Idol recorded a Christmas album.
  • Run-D.M.C. were sued by members of The Knack for using a sample of "My Sharona" in the song "It's Tricky," nearly twenty years after "It's Tricky" was first released.
  • Before releasing Sign 'O' the Times, Prince had basically completed three other albums, all of which were shelved with some tracks being repurposed for Sign.
  • Motown head Berry Gordy hated Marvin Gaye's classic LP What's Going On and initially refused to release it.
  • Kenny G had four singles reach the R&B chart including one that got to #15 prior to him finally making the Pop chart with "Songbird."
  • Billy Idol was inspired to write "Sweet Sixteen" after discovering the Florida attraction the Coral Castle.
  • Heart's #1 hit "Alone" had been recorded twice before with one of the versions being featured on a TV series soundtrack.
  • Glenn Frey was supposed to record "Shakedown."
  • Richard Marx's father wrote some famous advertisement jingles.
  • Laura Branigan was the last musical guest on a famous and influential TV show.
  • Aretha Franklin wasn't a fan of Natalie Cole.
  • Great White's lead singer shot a maid during a botched home invasion.
  • A tabloid journalist and sometimes musician accused Pet Shop Boys of plagiarism and ended up paying a price for it.
  • Michael Jackson wanted "Bad" to be a duet with Prince.
  • The band Big Trouble were created to be the all-female version of The Monkees.
  • Patrick Swayze's "She's Like the Wind" was written for another movie.
According to the year-end chart for 1987, these were the year's Top 10 singles:
  1. "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles
  2. "Alone" by Heart
  3. "Shake You Down" by Gregory Abbott
  4. "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" by Whitney Houston
  5. "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship
  6. "C'est La Vie" by Robbie Nevil
  7. "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake
  8. "The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby & the Range
  9. "Shakedown" by Bob Seger
  10. "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi
So long '87! I'm looking forward to see what '88 has in store. Hopefully I find a few more undiscovered gems.

Monday, January 11, 2021

"Live My Life" by Boy George

Song#:  3372
Date:  12/26/1987
Debut:  80
Peak:  40
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Following Culture Club's 1986 album From Luxury to Heartache, the band basically disintegrated. Lead singer and songwriter Boy George then decided to pursue a solo career. Staying with Virgin Records, George recorded and released his debut solo album Sold in 1987. The LP performed well in his UK homeland and other territories, but failed to do much of anything in the US (#145). Much of the blame for that was placed on George unable to promote the album in the US due to travel restrictions stemming from a drug arrest in '86. Undeterred, George moved forward with his solo career, which included an opportunity to contribute a song to a film soundtrack. George would record "Life My Life," a tune written by Allee Willis and Danny Sembello, for the John Cryer comedy-drama Hiding Out. It was more or less considered the film's theme song and was therefore issued out as a single. It was able to get on the Pop chart and eventually just barely crack the Pop Top 40. The song actually did better at Dance (#14) and R&B (#21). Although the song did fairly well, it didn't do much for the soundtrack album, which stalled at a low #145. It was a minor entry, but Boy George was finally able to get a solo song on the US Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  It was such a shame that Boy George's debut album Sold got ignored in the US. It was a good LP and I think if the single "Everything I Own" (see below) had been promoted better, it could have been a hit. Then that might have helped out this single, which also should have done better. At the time, I think many folks in the US were over the whole Culture Club/Boy George phenomenon. George was more the butt of jokes rather than being taken seriously as an artist and that was a shame. While this song didn't fully get him over the hump into being accepted on radio again, it did at least make a few waves and got him in the Top 40. I think this was an underrated song. It was well-written by Willis and Sembello, the production was solid, and George sounded perfect on it. Had it been done by a more popular artist, I think the song might have had a good chance at being a hit. But since it was Boy George, I think some people, and perhaps even radio stations, wouldn't give it a shot. Ah well. At least George did finally get a US hit in '92 (see below). George's solo recordings would be spotty, but I've always like Sold, this single, his other US hit (again, see below), and his 1995 rock-oriented album Cheapness and Beauty, which like his first LP was unjustly ignored.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Boy George's first solo single from his debut disc Sold was a cover tune instead of an original. George did a reggae-styled version of "Everything I Own," originally a 1972 #5 hit by the US band Bread. George's version would go on to hit #1 in the UK while making the Top 10 in several other countries. While George's reggae approach to the song seemed a bit unusual, he wasn't the first artist to frame the tune in that manner. In 1974, Jamaican vocalist Ken Boothe covered the song for his album of the same name. His reggae arrangement on the ballad turned heads and the song went to #1 in Jamaica. It then got released in the UK and also went to #1. Boy George most likely based his version on Boothe's hit.  2) After the success of Sold, George recorded a follow-up titled Tense Nervous Headache. George was reportedly not happy with the final production and indeed the LP tanked. Since a US release was wanted, George took the opportunity to fix some of the tracks and replace others to create an updated disc titled High Hat. Released in 1989, its first single, "Don't Take My Mind on a Trip," became an unexpected hit at R&B getting to #5. It also got to #26 Dance. However, it failed to chart at Pop. The album would peak at #34 R&B/#126 Pop. George would continue to record as a solo artist and grab a significant hit (discussed next) in the US. He would also get back together with Culture Club and record with them again. 3) George's biggest US hit came in 1992 when he teamed up with Pet Shop Boys to record the title track theme to the hit movie The Crying Game. The single would do well getting to #15 Pop/#14 AC. The soundtrack album would get to #60. The song was not written for the film, but was indeed a remake of a tune originally recorded by Dave Berry in 1964. His version reached #5 in the UK. Country superstar Brenda Lee recorded a version in 1967 that got to #87 on the US Pop chart.


Sunday, January 10, 2021

"Never Let Me Down Again" by Depeche Mode

Song#:  3371
Date:  12/26/1987
Debut:  96
Peak:  63
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synthpop, Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This UK band's sixth album, Music for the Masses, became their best effort to-date in the US reaching #35. This was due in part to their growing popularity along with the LP's first single, "Strangelove," which got to #1 on the Dance chart (#76 Pop). To keep up the momentum, this next single was released. While the tune (coupled with another track "Pleasure, Little Treasure") would just miss the Dance Top 10 at #12, it did slightly better on the Pop chart than their previous single peaking at #63. Although the track wasn't a major hit, it continued to promote the album and in March of '88 it became the band's second gold seller in the US. It would eventually go platinum.

ReduxReview:  This album opening track with its monotone verse had a distinct new wave feel and did a good job in establishing the band's sound. While it didn't really have a hooky chorus, the dark jam was certainly interesting. It was unlike anything else on the radio at the time. Whether you dug it or not, the track demanded your attention. The alt-rock track wasn't destined to be a big hit, but it helped to continue sales of the album and expand the band's fan base.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was done by Dutch photographer/director Anton Corbijn. Corbijn had already made a name for himself as a photographer since the late 70s supplying images to magazines such as the UK-based New Musical Express. He became known for his black and white photography, but later did works in color. Along the way, Corbijn started to work in the new visual media of music videos. In the early 80s, he directed videos for several artists including U2 and Echo & the Bunnymen. In 1986, he directed a video for the Depeche Mode song "A Question of Time." It would begin a long association between the band and Corbijn. Over the years, Corbijn would direct 23 videos for Depeche Mode including ones for their most recent release (as of this posting date), 2017's Spirit. Corbijn also designed many of the band's album covers. Corbijn's video work with Depeche Mode would earn him one Grammy nomination and two MTV Music Video Award nominations.


Saturday, January 9, 2021

"Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3370
Date:  12/19/1987
Debut:  71
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  While Astley's deep voice and association with the Stock Aitken Waterman production team would make him a star, he didn't necessarily start out with aspirations to become a solo star. As a teen, Astley began playing with various bands as a drummer. By 1985, he had a solid gig as drummer for the locally popular soul band FBI, but when the band's lead singer departed, Astley stepped up and took over. At one of the band's shows, Astley impressed an attendee, producer Pete Waterman, who then invited Astley to work at his London studio. It was there that the SAW team began to groom Astley for a solo career. Their first effort was a song Astley co-wrote called "When You Gonna." It was a duet between Astley and Lisa Fabien and released as by Rick & Lisa. The song went nowhere. Undeterred, SAW were determined to break Astley as a star and came up with the song "Never Gonna Give You Up." Recorded early in '87, the track was finally released in the UK in August. The song quickly caught on and ended up spending 5 weeks at #1. It was the best selling single in the UK for 1987. The hit then crossed the Atlantic and started to get traction at Dance where it would hit #1 in January of '88. A few weeks before that, the song debuted on the Pop chart and proceeded to make its way to #1. The tune would also hit #1 at AC. With the single topping three charts, it would end up being a gold seller. The hit would help Astley's debut album, Whenever You Need Somebody, peak at #10. Eventually, it would sell over 2 million copies in the US.

ReduxReview:  The SAW team wrote and produced a lot of hits, but I think this track was their defining moment. It was a hooky, well-written track with sharp production that was more sophisticated than the stuff they had been doing with artists like Bananarama. The trio elevated their game with this one and it certainly helped to have Astley's unusual voice to carry it along. I've always liked Astley's voice. It was distinct and had a richness that could enhance most any song. Although I will say that back in the day I had difficulty rectify that voice coming out of this young, hot-geek guy. It was kind of strange. Nevertheless, it all worked perfectly and an enduring hit was born.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  While this was a major worldwide #1 back in the day, the song became popular all over again in 2006 thanks to an internet prank. The administrator of an imageboard website called 4chan pulled a gag that replaced the word "egg" with "duck" on posts. In one conversation thread, the word "eggroll" was turned into "duckroll." It seems a user found that funny and created an image of a duck with wheels, aka a "duckroll." The gag expanded from there with the image getting associated with certain hyperlinks on the site. So if a person perhaps clicked a luring link like "hot babes," the duckroll image would pop up and the person had been duckrolled. Early in 2007, the trailer for the video game Grand Theft Auto IV was released, which garnered a ton of attention. As a joke, a user on 4chan created a hyperlink that looked like it would take you to the trailer, most likely to create a duckroll, but instead of the duckroll image, they had a link to Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" video. For whatever reason, people found this funny and soon others were creating false hyperlinks that sent unsuspecting clickers to Astley's video. It became known as "rickrolling" and the gag quickly spread. The viral sensation boosted views of Astley's video to over 20 million. When Astley found out about it, he thought it was both strange and funny. He also said he would not capitalize on the resurgence of the song following the viral gag. The only thing he agreed to do was to basically do a live rickroll during a performance at the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. While the rickroll phenomenon was popular for quite a while, it eventually died down but has not completely gone away. A couple of pro sports teams did rickroll stunts during games in 2019. So did Astley ever get rickrolled? Apparently yes. Even he has been tricked into clicking links that took him to...well, himself.


Friday, January 8, 2021

"853-5937" by Squeeze

Song#:  3369
Date:  12/19/1987
Debut:  79
Peak:  32
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Sqeeeze secured their biggest hit in the US with "Hourglass," the first single from their album Babylon and On. It would reach #15 Pop and #22 Rock. For a follow-up, this phone number-based track was released. It wouldn't do quite as well, but the track did crack the Pop Top 40 while getting to #37 at Rock. It would end up being the band's last song to reach the US Pop chart. Their next album, 1989's Frank, failed to capitalize on the success of their previous effort and they ended up dropped from their label. Still, the band soldiered on in various incarnations over the years and released albums for several labels. They had a bit of a comeback in 1993 with Some Fantastic Place, which became their best effort at home in the UK since Babylon and On thanks to a Top 40 hit. In the US, the track "Everything in the World" got to #9 on the Alternative Airplay chart.

ReduxReview:  This mid-tempo tune's phone number hook was memorable, but as a whole it wasn't quite as catchy as the more urgent "Hourglass." Still it was a good song and its Top 40 placement was appropriate. Difford and Tilbrook had a knack for writing solid pop tunes and they should have been more popular in the US. However, thanks to the success of Babylon and On, fans new to the band went and bought copies of their 1982 compilation disc Singles - 45's and Under, which peaked on the chart at #47 when first released. In January of '88, the LP would reach gold level sales. Three years later it would go platinum. It remains the only Squeeze album to have a sales certification in the US.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Is the song title a real phone number? According to band members and co-writers Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, the answer is yes. It was Glenn Tilbrook's own number. This was back in the days of folks having answering machines and many people, including yours truly, would record clever (or annoying) little songs, skits, or sayings that would play for the incoming caller when the phone went unanswered. Musicians were especially keen on writing little ditties for their machines and it seems that Glenn Tilbrook wrote one for his. Usually these messages would end up getting deleted and replaced with something else, but Tilbrook thought the one he did could be turned into an actual song. He and Difford fleshed out the tune keeping Tilbrook's own phone number. How long he kept that number after the song was released is unknown. Does the number still exist? It does in certain locations in the US. A quick look shows that the number (with the area code of 813) belongs to the Bulla Gastrobar in Tampa, Florida. There are also a couple of private residences in other area codes that have the number.


Thursday, January 7, 2021

"Dear Mr. Jesus" by PowerSource (Solo...Sharon)

Song#:  3368
Date:  12/19/1987
Debut:  82
Peak:  61
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Contemporary Christian

Pop Bits:  PowerSource was a Christian youth choir from Bedford, Texas, a town that falls between Dallas and Ft. Worth. In 1986, the group got together with songwriter/producer Richard Klender and recorded an indie album titled Shelter from the Storm. The group would sing together with various soloists being featured on the tracks. While the album may have found some fans in the Christian music community, for the most part the album came and went. Somehow, a copy of the album happened to be on-hand at a Tampa radio station and someone there began to play the track "Dear Mr. Jesus," which featured a lead vocal from 6-year-old Sharon Batts in the late fall of '87. The song was about a young girl writing a letter to Jesus after seeing a news report about child abuse on TV. The tune began to get some attention, but what really pushed the song in a bigger way was a tragic event that happened in New York City in November of '87 (see below). After details of the event came to light, a radio station in New York picked up "Dear Mr. Jesus" and put it on the air. The response was overwhelming. Soon there were requests for copies of the album since a single had not been issued out. As the song caught on in more markets, a single was finally printed. Airplay combined with sales allowed the tune to debut on the Pop chart. The message song wouldn't get too far, but it made an impression. The album would reach #10 on the Contemporary Christian chart. Batts was then courted by record labels and two years later she did record the solo album Someone to Love Me with PowerSource supporting, but it didn't get anywhere. It seems that later in life Batts remained in Texas, became a style consultant, and wrote a 2019 book on how to make clothes look good on you.

ReduxReview:  This is a difficult song to rate. On one hand, how can you say anything negative towards a tune about child abuse sung by a kid? Just saying you don't like it could bring the wrath of other people who think you are insensitive and don't get it. Basically, you are a monster. On the other hand, regardless of the subject matter it is still a musical piece that is open to criticism. People may love it, people may loathe it. It took me a minute to remember the song, but it all came back to me as soon as I heard it. I have to say, I think the same way about it now as I did back then. While I appreciate the sentiment, I have a very low tolerance for treacly tunes like this. They pander to people's emotions, are manipulative, and are usually poorly written and produced. If you compare this tune to another 1987 song about child abuse, Suzanne Vega's "Luka," it should become clear how a quality song can be composed about a tough subject. Now, I do understand that someone's Aunt Doris may not really get Vega's track and would more likely be crying in her kerchief to "Dear Mr. Jesus." That's fine. There's a place in the world for both types of tunes, but for me, this toddler-led ditty makes me cringe rather than cry. Sorry - I gotta calls it as I hears it. (Frankly, it should be a 0 or 1, but I'll add a point due to the unexpected and pretty darn good rock filler vocal at the end by some guy, presumably the writer/producer.)

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  This song played on people's emotions, especially in New York. On November 1, 1987, criminal defense attorney Joel Steinberg struck his adopted daughter Lisa, age 6, in the head. He left their home and eventually Steinberg's common law wife, Hedda, called the police. Lisa would die three days later from her injuries. Apparently, Lisa and a young toddler that Steinberg had taken in but not adopted, were being abused for quite a while. Both Steinberg and Hedda were arrested. Hedda, in exchange for her testimony, would not serve time. Steinberg would be convicted for manslaughter and serve a prison term. He was paroled in 2004. The crime caught the nation's attention and this song, sung by a six-year-old, happened to get discovered just after the Steinberg incident.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

"She's Like the Wind" by Patrick Swayze (featuring Wendy Fraser)

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  3367
Date:  12/19/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  3
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Although Patrick Swayze became known for his acting, he had other talents as well. He was a trained ballet dancer as well as a musician. He put both of those skills to use early on in his career when he became part of the replacement cast of Grease during its Broadway run. Swayze got the lead role of Danny Zuko. After that, his acting career began to slowly take off. His breakout role came in 1987 via a low-budget film called Dirty Dancing and once again his two other talents were put to use. Swayze was not only able to show off his smooth moves playing a resort dance instructor, but he also got to show off his musical side by recording a song for the film's soundtrack. Swayze co-wrote and sang "She's Like the Wind," which ended up being released as the third single from the soundtrack album. With the film becoming a success and with two other songs from the soundtrack already becoming hits, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" and "Hungry Eyes," not to mention Swayze's new star status, the song began to take off. It would eventually reach #3 at Pop and stay there for three weeks while hitting #1 at AC. Unfortunately, it would end up being Swayze's only song to reach the charts making him a true one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  I've always been 50/50 on this song. It kind of sounds like a relic from the late 70s spruced up with 80s production. I don't like Swayze's voice and the lyrics are awful. Yet there is something oddly endearing about the tune. The mysterious verse followed by a quick two measure chorus/hook was a bit unusual as was the outro that was different from the rest of the song and added a female voice. It really shouldn't have worked at all, but in the end it kind of did. Would this have been a hit if it wasn't attached to the movie and Swayze's newfound star status? I dunno. I just think it was one of those songs that found its opportunity at the exact right moment. While the song makes me cringe sometimes, by the end is has usually won me over in a guilty pleasure kind of way.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Swayze did not write this song specifically for Dirty Dancing. He actually wrote it for another movie he was in, 1984's Grandview U.S.A. Swayze was cast as one of the leads along with Jamie Lee Curtis and C. Thomas Howell. At some point, Swayze learned that the producers were assembling a soundtrack for the film and were looking for songs. Swayze had an idea for a tune, but was having trouble fleshing it out so he called on his friend, songwriter Stacy Widelitz, to help out. The pair finished "She's Like the Wind" and recorded a demo. Swayze presented his song to producers, but they nixed it. In 1986, Swayze got a role in the film Youngblood, which starred Rob Lowe. According to an interview with Lowe, Swayze brought the tune around for soundtrack consideration, but it was rejected again. The following year, Swayze once again hawked his song, this time to the folks behind his new flick Dirty Dancing. It seems third time was the charm and not only did the song make the film and soundtrack, it became a hit.  2) The female vocal part on the song was done by Wendy Fraser. Fraser was Stacy Widelitz's girlfriend and had sung the part on the original demo for the song. When it came time to formally record the track for the movie, the producer just called her in to do the part instead of hiring in someone else. While the hit didn't present Fraser with an opportunity for a solo career, it did offer her the chance to work as a background vocalist for many artists including Cher, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Barnes, and Neil Diamond.  3) When an actor gets an unexpected hit song, the typical next step is to record an album. This can be driven by the actor's management or even the star thinking - yeah, I can have a music career too! Most of the time it doesn't work out and the actor returns quickly to their day job. Swayze did not do that. He chose to focus on acting. However, that didn't mean he couldn't dabble a bit in music on the side. In 1989, Swayze would star in two films, Road House and Next of Kin. For Road House, he would record two songs for the soundtrack, one of which he co-wrote. For Next of Kin, Swayze would do a duet with country star Larry Gatlin on "Brothers," a song Gatlin wrote.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

"Rhythm of Love" by Yes

Song#:  3366
Date:  12/19/1987
Debut:  86
Peak:  40
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  After a three-year absence, Yes returned with their twelfth studio album Big Generator. Its first single, "Love Will Find a Way," became a big hit at Rock reaching #1. Over on the Pop chart, it didn't do as well halting at #30. However, the results called for a follow-up and this next track was selected. The song predictably did well at Rock getting to #2, but like their previous single, this one stalled early at Pop after just cracking the Top 40. Still, the airplay on rock radio was enough to help the album get to #15.

ReduxReview:  This track was in-line with what that band was pushing out at the time. It was a good song that had an ear towards rock radio, but it wasn't as commercially appealing as their #1 hit "Owner of a Lonely Heart." In other words, it was typical 80s Yes. It didn't move the band forward, but didn't necessarily set them back. While that was not necessarily a bad thing, the problem was that the tunes became forgettable. Been there, done that.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  With the two main singles from the album not doing all that well on the Pop chart, the label decided no further singles would be formally released. However, two other track from the album would receive enough airplay to get on the Rock chart. "Shoot High Aim Low" would nearly crack the Top 10 at #11 while "Final Eyes" would get to #20. These two tracks along with the two proper singles helped the album sell well and in April of '88 it would become a platinum seller. At the time of certification, it was the band's third platinum LP following 1978's Tormato and 1984's 90125. However, after a 1998 review of their catalog sales, four of their albums turned platinum while another was certified 2x platinum. The review also boosted the sales of 90125 from platinum to triple-platinum.


Monday, January 4, 2021

"I Need a Man" by Eurythmics

Song#:  3365
Date:  12/19/1987
Debut:  87
Peak:  46
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synth Rock

Pop Bits:  Five albums into their career, Eurythmics (Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart) had earned two gold and two platinum LPs, which spawned three Pop Top 10 singles. Their fifth album, 1986's Revenge, signaled a slight dip in popularity peaking at #12 and only going gold. For their sixth album, they needed something bolder to win back some of the audience they had lost. They came up with Savage, a collection of songs that saw the duo reaching back to their more experimental days by toying with the new sound sampling techniques of the day. Lennox and Stewart wrote, produced, and performed everything on the album with only Olle Romo lending a hand with programming. This near-solo effort was different from their previous two LPs, which saw them expand from a synthpop duo into a more full-on rock band with side musicians. To introduce the album, this first single was pushed out. The song was unable to catch on and it fizzled before it could reach the Pop Top 40. It also got to #32 at Rock. (The tune combined with another album track was able to reach #6 at Dance.) The results were disappointing and played into album sales. Savage peaked at #41 and missed the gold-level mark. It was the duo's worst showing since their non-charting 1981 debut album In the Garden.

ReduxReview:  The rollout of Savage was similar to their previous LP Revenge in that the singles initially released in the duo's home UK territory was different from the US. In October of '87, the track "Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)" was released in the UK. I remember seeing it in Billboard on the UK chart and couldn't wait to hear it because the title was so intriguing. I assumed it would be the first single in the US, but then "I Need a Man" came out. I was hardly disappointed though because I absolutely loved the song. It was a balls-to-the-wall bluesy rock jam with a killer performance by Lennox. I'm guessing it was selected first for US release because the experimental "Beethoven" only got to #26 in the UK and the previous album's rock-leaning lead single "Missionary Man" did well in the US (#14 Pop/#1 Rock). I thought for certain "I Need a Man" was going to sail into the US Pop Top 10, but then it stalled outside of the Top 40. I'm not really sure why. Maybe folks (especially straight guys) didn't want go around singing "I Need a Man." Or maybe it was just too loud and in-your-face for pop radio. Despite the failure of the single, the song had remained popular with fans, as has the album. Critics were not that kind to the LP when it came out, but it has gained a better reputation over the years and even Lennox and Stewart have said it was their favorite album in their catalog. I loved Savage and thought folks missed out at the time. It really should have been a much bigger hit and this song should have made the Top 10.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  To help promote Savage, Eurythmics teamed up with director Sophie Muller to create an accompanying video album. A video would be shot for each track on the album and would then be loosely tied together with a concept. Throughout the videos, Annie Lennox appeared as herself, as a mousey housewife, and as an extroverted vamp. The video album was received well and would go on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Long Form Music Video. Two of the album's videos would receive MTV Music Video Award nominations. Muller, who directed all but two of the Savage videos, would later do another concept video album with Annie Lennox for her 1992 solo debut Diva. It would go on to win the Grammy for Best Long Form Music Video.