Saturday, February 13, 2021

"Check It Out" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Song#:  3404
Date:  02/06/1988
Debut:  66
Peak:  14
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Mellencamp's ninth studio album, The Lonesome Jubilee, became another multi-platinum success thanks to a pair of Top 10 hits including the nostalgic #8 "Cherry Bomb." His previous album, Scarecrow, spawned three Top 10s, so it was hoped that this third single from Jubilee would also do the trick. It nearly did, but stalled just short at #14. However, it was a hit over at Rock where it reached #3.

ReduxReview:  I have to say that I would not have pegged this for a single. It was wordy, meandering, and didn't necessarily have a hooky chorus. It was a terrific and thoughtful song, however there were tracks on the album that I felt had a better shot on the Pop chart. I was certainly proved wrong after the tune made the Top 20. I didn't expect that. I'm glad it did, but in the long run it wasn't one of Mellencamp's most memorable hits. My personal memory of the song is when I saw Mellencamp in concert back around '89. He performed this tune and about halfway through, he forgot the words. He had the band vamp for a minute so he could remember them, but the words didn't come. So he started the song over hoping the words would flow. They didn't. He got caught at the same point. He even asked the audience if anyone knew the lyrics, but being such a wordy song, it confused everyone else as well. Even his band members didn't know! After another long vamp, he finally remembered and the song continued. The audience cheered in appreciation. That kind of thing doesn't really happen anymore with major acts. The shows are so staged and timed that they include teleprompters with all the lyrics and even cues. For me it kind of takes away from the spontaneity of a live performance, but if someone has a highly staged show that folks have shelled out major bucks for, I can see why an artist would want to have it go off without a hitch. Personally, I don't mind the mistakes. It shows the human side of the performer and I think Mellencamp's gaff the night I saw him made the show more memorable and personal.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Tracks from The Lonesome Jubilee were wildly successful on rock radio. Overall, six songs from the album would reach the Rock Top 10. Whether that was a record for an artist is unclear, but it was certainly an amazing feat. Four of the Top 10s would reach the Pop chart while the other two were airplay-only hits on the Rock chart. The non-singles "The Real Life" and "Hard Times for an Honest Man" would reach #3 and #10, respectively, on the Rock chart. Of the singles, "Paper in Fire" and "Cherry Bomb" would each hit #1 while "Check It Out" got to #3 and "Rooty Toot Toot" made it to #7. The haul increased Mellencamp's total of Top 10 Rock hits to fourteen. Over the years he would add nine more making a total of twenty-three. As of this posting date, Mellencamp ranks in the Top 10 for the most Top 10s on the Mainstream Rock chart, tied with Metallica and Pearl Jam.


Friday, February 12, 2021

"Rock of Life" by Rick Springfield

Song#:  3403
Date:  02/06/1988
Debut:  72
Peak:  22
Weeks: 15
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  From '81 to '85, Springfield churned out five albums, four of them went platinum while his last one, Tao, went gold. After the mad rush of output, Springfield took a little break from recording. He would return in '88 with his latest effort Rock of Life. It was his tenth studio solo disc and the title track served as the lead single. It would miss out on the Pop Top 20 while getting to #45 at Rock. His previous album, Tao, also started off slow, but a second Top 40 single helped it along. Unfortunately, that didn't happen for Rock of Life. Its second single, "Honeymoon in Beirut," didn't get on any chart and with that result, the album stopped at a minor #55. It would be the first album of Springfield's 80s streak to not at least go gold.

ReduxReview:  This reggae-ish track kind of caught me by surprise. Even though the big pop/rock sound Springfield had been known for was still apparent, the feel of the track was something different for him. It was a good attempt to change things up, but at the time I didn't necessarily care for it. I still bought the album as I was a fan and thought Tao was underrated, but it just didn't have the most memorable tunes. Frankly, it sounded a little tired and I think Springfield was running out of gas. Still, there were a couple of good tracks including "World Stop Turning," which should have been a single. As time passed, I ended up liking "Rock of Life" better, but still don't think it was destined to be a Top 10'er. Springfield took about a decade off (see below) and I didn't come back on board with him when he returned. However, in 2016, he released Rocket Science. I had read a couple of good things about it and decided to give it a spin. I have to say that it was excellent. It was like Springfield took the best things about his early hits and updated them for a new generation. The LP was full of hooky power pop tracks that turned me back into a fan. I highly recommend it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After Rock of Life, Springfield decided it was time to take a break from music. In addition to experiencing a bit of writers block, he wanted to spend more time with his family and revive his acting career. In 1992, he got the lead role in the Fox TV show Human Target. The show only lasted one season. He did better starring in the 1994 syndicated series High Tide. That show lasted three seasons. Since then, Springfield has appeared on various shows like Californication, Supernatural, and American Horror Story. He also returned to General Hospital and appeared numerous times between 2005 and 2013. On the music front, he would get back to recording near the end of the 90s. His first project arrived in 1997 when he teamed with two other musicians to released a collaborative album titled Sahara Snow. He then formally followed up Rock of Life in 1999 with the solo disc Karma. He would continue to release albums over the years with a few of them hitting the Album chart including 2008's Venus in Overdrive, which got to #28.


Thursday, February 11, 2021

"Hot Thing" by Prince

Song#:  3402
Date:  02/06/1988
Debut:  80
Peak:  63
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Prince's double-LP Sign 'O' the Times would be another platinum seller for him thanks to three Pop Top 10 hits including the #10 "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man." That song was the fourth official single released from the LP. While there wouldn't be an official fifth single pushed out, this track ended up on the charts anyway (see below). Airplay would help the tune get to #14 at R&B while over on the Pop chart it would circle around the bottom third for a couple of months.

ReduxReview:  While this is was a tasty groove from Prince that performed well as an album track, it wasn't a very good single even in its remix/edited form. Besides the title getting repeated constantly throughout the track, it really didn't have a hook or chorus, which is something that was nearly a requirement for pop radio. The jam was great for dance floor action, but it didn't need to be a single and indeed it really wasn't (see below). As an album track, it was great. As a single, it didn't work.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This is an odd charting entry for Prince in that there was never an official single of the song issued out. Promo discs were created to float to radio stations and indeed it seems like some did spin the tune. So without an official single release, how did the song get on the Pop chart, which at the time required that a song had to be commercially available as a single? Simple - it was the b-side to a previous single. The album track got the remix treatment from Shep Pettibone, which itself was interesting as it was the first time an outside producer/remixer was allowed to remix a Prince song. Three versions were created. An extended mix, an edited mix, and a dub mix. All three were included on the 12" vinyl single of "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man." Both songs got spun in the clubs and it ended up being a double-sided hit on the Dance chart getting to #4. The edit version of the song was then used as the b-side of the 45 single of "I Could Never..." Since the song was then commercially available on a single, it was then allowed to enter the Pop chart after it started to pick up airplay via the promos. Prince and his label could have easily created a new single of the song and promoted it more heavily, but I'm guess that the timing was wrong as Prince was nearly ready to release his next album, Lovesexy, and it's first single, "Alphabet St." was prepped for an April release. There needed to be a bit of a break to create anticipation for the new material and not have the singles step on each other. Therefore, the label just kind of let "Hot Thing" do its own thing with not a lot of promotion. A short month after "Hot Thing" left the Pop chart, "Alphabet St." made its debut.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

"You Will Know" by Stevie Wonder

Song#:  3401
Date:  02/06/1988
Debut:  83
Peak:  77
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Wonder's album Characters got kicked off with the #1 R&B hit "Skeletons." Unfortunately, the funky jam wasn't the best fit for pop radio and it stalled at #19. It was the first time since 1972 that a lead single from a Stevie Wonder studio album did not make the Pop Top 10. Hoping to turn things around, this album-opening track was issued out. Once again it was a winner at R&B reaching #1. It would end up being Wonder's last single to reach the top of that chart. It also got to #16 at AC. Over at Pop, the song was nearly a non-starter spending a few minor weeks near the bottom of the chart. The lack of support at Pop had an effect on sales of the LP, which stopped at #17 on the Pop chart. Luckily, it got to #1 at R&B thanks to the pair of chart toppers and that helped the album go platinum. It was Wonder's last studio album to reach that level.

ReduxReview:  The R&B-leaning "Skeletons" wasn't what pop listeners were looking for, so this more mainstream ballad was tossed out next. It didn't fit the bill either. It was a good AC tune from Wonder, but when compared to some of his other classic tracks, it was just...meh. It was also a very odd choice to have it be the first song on the album. It certainly wasn't a tune that would grab a listener's attention right off the bat. While it is a lovely little ballad, it wasn't one of Wonder's most memorable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  To help try and generate interest in the album, Wonder joined up with MTV to create a special called Stevie Wonder's Characters. The program featured Wonder performing songs from the album and it also featured special guests. Jody Watley and Salt 'n' Pepa made appearances as did guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. Vaughn may have seemed like a strange choice as a guest, but he along with B.B. King performed on a track from the CD version of Characters titled "Come Let Me Make Your Love Come Down." Plus, Vaughan had covered Wonder's hit "Superstition" on tour, a version of which appeared on Vaughan's 1986 concert LP Live Alive. It made sense then that Wonder and Vaughan performed "Superstition" on the TV special, which aired in late April of '88. What the ratings were for the program is unknown, but it seems the show didn't do much to boost sales of the album or help its singles on the Pop chart.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

"Don't Look Any Further" by The Kane Gang

Song#:  3400
Date:  02/06/1988
Debut:  84
Peak:  64
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Blue-Eyed Soul, Sophisti-Pop

Pop Bits:  This British trio got their first and only US Pop Top 40 entry with "Motortown" (#36), a track from their second album Miracle. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. It would end up doing very well over on the US Dance chart reaching #1. The action there helped the song get on the Pop chart, but it only stuck around for a month. By this point the album had already topped out at a minor #115. Although there was some momentum going their way, the trio wasn't able to capitalize on it right away. By the turn of the decade, one member had left. The remaining two tried to get a new album together, but it wasn't meant to be and they called it a day sometime in '91.

ReduxReview:  After the complete bliss of "Motortown," this track was a bit of a letdown. I wasn't a big fan of the original (see below) and this remake didn't do much to change my mind. In fact, the band did a fairly straightforward version of the song. Except for eliminating the female vocal, they didn't really change or update the track. Still, it was a good fit for the band's brand of sophisti-pop and it certainly wasn't a bad remake. They just didn't do anything to improve on the original.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a song originally recorded by Dennis Edwards with Siedah Garrett. It was the first single from Edwards' 1984 debut album of the same name. The song was a hit at R&B reaching #2. It also got to #72 at Pop. In the US, The Kane Gang would be the only other act to reach the Pop chart with a remake of the song. However, in the UK, the song would be a #9 hit for the dance-pop group M People. It was the third single from their 1993 breakthrough album Elegant Slumming. That LP was a multi-platinum #2 hit in the UK thanks to four Top 10 hits. Their next two albums would also be big sellers. Overall, they scored ten Top 10 hits in the UK. In the US, they would earn four #1 hits on the Dance chart, but they couldn't expand into the mainstream. Their only entry on the Pop chart was 1993's "Moving on Up," which got to #34.


Monday, February 8, 2021

"The Motion of Love" by Gene Loves Jezebel

Song#:  3399
Date:  02/06/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  87
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This goth rock-influenced UK outfit formed by twin brothers Jay ("J") and Michael Aston started to come together in 1980. The following year the band made a move to London and soon after got the attention of Situation Two, an offshoot imprint of indie label Beggars Banquet. Beginning in 1982, the band released a few singles and then followed them up with their 1983 debut LP Promise, which made the UK Indie chart Top 10. A second album, 1985's Immigrant, would do well enough to boost the band's profile and that got them moved up to the Beggars Banquet imprint, which then allowed them to get distribution in the US via Geffen. Their 1986 third album Discovery would expand their audience at home while breaking them in the US (mainly at college radio) with two of the LP's tracks making the US Dance chart including the #11 "Desire (Come and Get It)." It set them up well for their next effort, The House of Dolls. This first single would be a minor blip on the US Dance chart at #46, but the exposure on college and indie radio stations helped the song get on the Pop chart, if briefly. Another track, "Twenty Killer Hurts," would get to #33 at Dance. The album would then top out at #108. While the numbers may not seem impressive, the band was highly regarded on the indie scene and garnered a large following both in the US and UK.

ReduxReview:  This song sounds like the band's stab and coming up with a viable, radio-friendly single. Even the production, courtesy of Jimmy Iovine (who only did two track for the LP), framed the tune in an arena-sized sound that gave it a solid pop/rock punch. It seemed the label (and perhaps the band) was determined to turn Gene Loves Jezebel from a college/indie rock cult group into a more mainstream-friendly act. Perhaps the label's answer to The Cure. It didn't quite work out that way, but I thought this hooky, exuberant track was a good one to show off the band. It is oddly quite a happy track with all its whoops, reverb, and brightly recorded guitars and keyboards. It took a couple of listens, but I ended up enjoying the song quite a bit.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  When the band first formed, they went by the name Slav Aryan (or by some accounts, Slav Aryan, Slavorian, or Slay Arian). After their move to London, they took on the name Gene Loves Jezebel. There seems to be a couple of origin stories about the name. The most common seems to be that the name was a combination of rockabilly pioneer Gene Vincent and his 1961 song "Jezebel." The other story involves nicknames given to the Aston twins. It seems like "J" Aston was dubbed Jezebel because of his initial-only first name and his long, flowing hair. Michael Aston got called Gene after Gene Vincent. It seems that Aston had a bit of a limp due to a poorly healed broken leg. Somehow, this got associated with Gene Vincent who in 1960 was in a major car crash while on tour in the UK. The accident added further damage to his leg, which had previously been shattered in a motorcycle crash in 1955 and left him with a limp. (Also in the car crash was another early rock 'n' roll star Eddie Cochran, who died from his injuries.) Aston's limp somehow brought to mind Vincent's limp and Ashton got called Gene. The pair of nicknames then turned into the band name. There is also an addendum to the second story that after the twins got their nicknames, someone flippantly said "does Gene love Jezebel?" The answer was apparently, yes, Gene loves Jezebel, and a band name was born. If the latter story is true, it seems the love didn't last all that long. Their relationship would turn tempestuous over the years with lawsuits and each brother forming/leading their own version of Gene Loves Jezebel.


Sunday, February 7, 2021

"Without You" by Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle

Song#:  3398
Date:  02/06/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  89
Weeks:  3
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  After first hitting both the Pop and R&B charts for the first time in 1975, it took nearly ten years for Bryson to finally earn his first Pop Top 10 hit. It came with 1984's "If Ever You're in My Arms Again" (#10) a track from Straight from the Heart, his first album after a label switch to Elektra. It was a positive step forward, but then his next two albums for the label failed to deliver a significant hit. He gave it another go with his thirteenth studio album Positive. While assembling the LP, Bryson got the opportunity to record a song for an upcoming film. He got teamed up with new R&B star Regina Belle and the pair recorded "Without You," a song that would be used as the love theme for the Bill Cosby spy comedy Leonard Part 6. The single would be released to promote the film and Bryson's upcoming album. The ballad would be a hit at AC reaching #8 while also getting to #14 R&B. However, it couldn't get off the ground at Pop and disappeared after a short three weeks. A second single from Bryson's album was released, but it failed to chart and with those results, Bryson and Elektra parted ways. Bryson's next two albums, one for Capitol and one for Columbia, would each spawn an R&B #1, but neither generated much interest at Pop. He would finally find himself back in the Pop Top 10 twice in the 90s with two film songs. First was "Beauty and the Beast," a duet with Celine Dion from the Disney film of the same name. It would reach #9 Pop/#3 AC. Then in '92, Bryson would be paired once again with Regina Bell for "A Whole New World," a song from Disney's Aladdin. That track would reach #1 Pop, #1 AC, and #21 R&B. Both songs would win the Oscar for Best Original Song.

ReduxReview:  This tune was written by hitmaker Lamont Dozier and it was the best thing to come out of the debacle known as Leonard Part 6 (see below). It was a sweeping AC-leaning track that was awash in 80s production and featured lovely vocals by Bryson and Belle. The song rightfully did well at AC, but the ballad was probably not the best fit for pop radio at the time. It was suited for a more adult audience rather than those who were dancing to Madonna or rockin' to Bon Jovi. So I'm not surprised it didn't get far on the chart. It's not the most memorable of songs, but it is lovely to hear.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was used in the Bill Cosby vehicle Leonard Part 6. Cosby had been a major star for many years, but he was at the peak of his popularity in the late 80s thanks to his hit TV sitcom The Cosby Show. He hadn't been in a film since 1981 and with his star brighter than ever it seemed like the right time to dip back into the movies. Cosby had a story he developed about a retired CIA agent and it didn't take much to convince a studio to make a film out of it. The spy spoof would be filmed and then released during the holiday season of '87. With Cosby attached, it seemed like Santa was going to deliver the studio a major hit for Christmas, but they ended up with a giant lump of coal. Things didn't look good early on when Cosby and the director were at odds. Then as the film was getting prepped for release, Cosby publicly denounced the film and basically told folks to stay away from it. Well, they did. The movie ended up being a big box office bomb and it was savaged by critics with many calling it not only one of the worst films of the year, but of the worst of all-time. It would go on to win a trio of Golden Raspberry awards including Worst Actor (Cosby), Worst Picture, and Worst Screenplay. Weirdly, Cosby took the award "wins" in stride and even requested that his awards be made of 24k gold and Italian marble, which he actually got and showed off to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.