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.