Saturday, January 30, 2021

"Stimulation" by Wa Wa Nee

Song#:  3390
Date:  01/30/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  86
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  After having success back home, the Aussie band Wa Wa Nee attempted to break through in the States with "Sugar Free," a single from their self-title debut album. The song did fairly well cracking the Pop Top 40 at #35. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. Back home in Australia, this song was the band's debut single. It was a major hit reaching #2. However, it couldn't gain an audience in the US with the track spending only two short weeks on the chart. With that result, no further singles were released in the US.

ReduxReview:  Releasing "Sugar Free" first in the US was a good idea since it was an in-your-face electro-funk tune that was memorable and grabbed your attention. By contrast, this was a slicker synthpop tune that was similar in sound to some of the day's UK sophisti-pop. While not a bad tune, it just wasn't as hooky or interesting as "Sugar Free" and it wasn't enough to entice US pop listeners.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  By the time Wa Wa Nee had some success in the US, their debut album had pretty much run its course at home in Australia. So to keep fans interested between albums, the band pushed out a remix album titled called Ulta Mixes. It didn't chart, but it allowed the band time to prepare their second album. Blush would finally arrive in April of '89, three years after their debut album came out. It seems the band had lost some of the momentum gained with their first album as its first two singles just barely scraped the Aussie Top 40. The lackluster results kept the album from being released in the US. Following that disappointment, Wa Wa Nee would officially disband.


Friday, January 29, 2021

"Endless Summer Nights" by Richard Marx

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3389
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  53
Peak:  2
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Marx's self-titled debut album had already produced two #3 hits on the Pop chart, "Don't Mean Nothing" and "Should've Known Better." Could he make it three in a row? Marx gave it a try with this mid-tempo track and succeeded. In fact, it peaked a notch higher than the previous two hits. The song also became his first to make the AC Top 10 reaching #2 while getting to #41 at Rock. The three hits helped the album sell well and by February of '88 it would turn platinum.

ReduxReview:  Making this the third single was a smart move. It was a nice change of pace after two rock-leaning tracks. The tune was even more mainstream friendly with its pop-oriented arrangement augmented with a sax solo and nostalgic lyrics. It was one of those songs that was going to please a younger demographic that bought the first two singles (with MTV playing a part) and bring aboard a new set of adult fans. While I didn't like it as much as his previous hits, it was a well-crafted track that deserved its Top 10 placement.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The b-side to this single was the album track "Have Mercy." Prior to the single being released, the song garnered airplay at Rock stations. In December of '87, the tune would reach #17 on the Rock chart. It is unclear whether Marx's label was looking for a double-sided hit by including "Have Mercy" on the back side of "Endless Summer Nights," but in the end, pop and AC stations stuck with the a-side and fans took it to #2 on each chart. Most likely, the track was pushed to rock stations to keep those fans interested in Marx while his more mainstream tracks with hit potential were hawked to pop radio.


Thursday, January 28, 2021

"Hysteria" by Def Leppard

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3388
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  66
Peak:  10
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Def Leppard had been knocking on the door to the Pop Top 10 since 1983, but had yet to be allowed to enter. Three of their singles made the Top 20 with "Photograph" getting the closest at #12. The first two singles from their fourth album Hysteria weren't able to do the trick either and it seemed like it just wasn't going to happen for the guys, but then this title-track third single from the LP finally broke the spell. The same week that this song debuted on the Pop chart, it peaked at #9 on the Rock chart. The action there along with heavy video play from MTV helped the mid-tempo track up the chart. In its ninth week on the Pop chart it sat at #11. The next week it was just barely able to make it to #10 where it only stayed for one week. It was a very brief appearance, but Def Leppard finally earned their first Pop Top 10 hit. It would also mark the beginning of a mini-streak of Top 10's for the band.

ReduxReview:  Although not a power ballad, this mid-tempo tune fell right in line with other songs by rock/glam metal bands that played well on pop radio. While the band certainly had some solid, hooky songs hit the pop chart, this one may have been their most pop-oriented to date. Frankly, if it didn't have the big, chunky production by Robert "Mutt" Lange and Joe Elliott's rock vocal, this tune could have easily been a hit for a pop artist. So it wasn't exactly a surprise that it finally got them into the Top 10. I think what was surprising is that it kicked off a terrific run of singles. All of a sudden, it seemed like Def Leppard was hot property on pop radio and they could do no wrong. It just took this single to get them there.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  When Def Leppard was formed in 1977, Pete Willis was the original guitarist. Then Steve Clark would join in '78 giving the band two guitarists. Wills was with the band through to the 1982 sessions for Pyromania. Due to his alcohol consumption, the band decided to fire Wills. They then immediately hired Phil Collen to take his place. Collen had been with the UK glam metal band Girl. They would release albums in '80 and '82, both of which reached the UK chart. While in Girl, Collen had been courted by Def Leppard to help them out on guitar during their tour supporting the 1981 album High 'n' Dry, but since it wasn't a permanent position in the band, Collen turned them down and stayed with Girl. When Willis was fired, the band called up Collen again as a possible replacement. Collen took the leap this time and after a quick audition, he became a member of Def Leppard. Girl split up not long after his departure. Another member of Girl, vocalist Phil Lewis, did pretty well himself. He would become the lead singer of the US hard rock/glam metal band L.A. Guns. In '88 and '89, the band's first two albums would be gold sellers in the US. For their debut album, L.A. Guns would record "Hollywood Tease," a song Lewis co-wrote (with Phil Collen) and recorded with Girl for their 1980 debut LP Sheer Greed.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

"Rocket 2 You" by The Jets

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3387
Date:  01/23/1988
Debut:  68
Peak:  6
Weeks:  22
Genre:  R&B, Electro-Funk

Pop Bits:  The family band's second regular studio album, Magic, hit a slight snag when its second single, "I Do You," stalled at #20. Hoping for something better, this third single was issued out. It ended up doing the trick by becoming the band's fourth Pop Top 10. It also got to #5 at R&B and #3 Dance. Just prior to the release of this single, the album would go gold. This hit certainly helped sell a few more albums, but it wasn't enough to get it to the platinum level of their 1985 debut. This hit would earn The Jets a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  This was a much needed change of pace for the band. It helped them move from dance-pop into more funky territory and it suited them well. Framed in a classic 80s production, the track had shades of Rick James combined with Jam & Lewis. It wasn't quite as uptight as their previous dance-pop hits and even the vocals felt more loose and free. This song has kind of disappeared over the years in favor of the band's other hits, mainly the ballads, and that is too bad. I think just by a nose this was their best single.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This track was written and produced by Bobby Nunn. Nunn had worked with Rick James and Earth, Wind & Fire in the late70s/early 80s and those connections helped him to secure a recording contract with Motown. In 1982, Nunn released his debut album Second to Nunn. It's first single, "She's Just a Groupie," got to #15 R&B/#28 Dance. A follow-up cracked the R&B Top 40. A second album followed in 1983, but it didn't do as well. A third album was recorded, but then Motown shelved it and Nunn was back out on his own. A couple of years later, Nunn was seeking another contract and through connections got to play a demo of his songs for the head of MCA Records. The demo also found its way over to Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White. Both parties were struck by the song "Rocket 2 U." White wanted the tune for the next EWF album, while MCA wanted it for The Jets. Nunn's instinct was to probably give it to White due to Nunn's connection to EWF. But then MCA offered Nunn the chance to produce the song for The Jets and that won him over. The track then went on to be a Grammy-nominated hit.


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.