Saturday, March 20, 2021

"I Want to Be Your Property" by Blue Mercedes

Song#:  3438
Date:  03/05/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  66
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Europop

Pop Bits:  Blue Mercedes was an English duo made up of David Titlow and Duncan Millar. The pair's brand of dance-pop attracted the attention of MCA Records who signed them in '87. In the fall of that year, they released this debut single in the UK. It would do fairly well reaching #23. The label requested a full album and the duo came up with Rich and Famous. This single was then released in the US. It would be a big hit in clubs and get to #1 on the Dance chart. The song would cross over to the Pop chart, but it would only stay for a few weeks. A second single, "See Want Must Have," would get to #18 Dance, but they would return to the Dance Top 10 with a third single "Love Is the Gun" (#5). The dance hits helped the album get on the chart, but it would only reach a minor #165. For Blue Mercedes, that would be the end of the road. In 1990, Titlow and Millar would again collaborate and release a single, but this time under the name Nixon. Released in the UK, it did not chart. Then they headed up a Euro-house outfit called Monica De Luxe and released a few singles in the early 90s. After that, it seems the pair went their own ways. Titlow join a rock band called Heave, but then later in the 90s switched careers and became a professional photographer. Millar stayed in music and in the late 90s shifted over to smooth jazz.

ReduxReview:  To me, this song sounded as if ABC moved into freestyle/house music. It was like an amped up version of that band's sophisti-pop with a lead vocal that was reminiscent of ABC's Martin Fry. It was a fun song that charged along quite well and apparently kept the dance floor packed. I don't think I ever heard the song back in the day, but as with another recent entry, I totally remember the album cover. Don't know why as it wasn't special in any way. This is a fun dance tune that perhaps should have at least cracked the Top 40. If you really, really like this song, then you might like the album as pretty much every track on it sounds like this one. I got bored after about three tracks.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  When Blue Mercedes first recorded and released this song, they filmed a video for it as well. It was more like a performance video on a soundstage with various props and video effects. After the song began to perform well and see action in the US, a new video was created. In the chorus, there are lyrics that say "I want to live like Cyd Charisse." The line references the famous dancer/actress whose career really took off with her appearance in the 1952 classic movie musical Singin' in the Rain. Since the song mentioned Charisse, why not include her in the song's new video? Charisse was in her late-60s at the time and was still making appearances on TV shows, films, and on stage. She agreed to be in the video and even did a short dance routine. It was her first music video, but not her last. She would also make an appearance in the video for Janet Jackson's 1990 #4 hit "Alright."


Friday, March 19, 2021

"Hot Hot Hot!!!" by The Cure

Song#:  3437
Date:  03/05/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  65
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  The British band finally cracked the US Pop Top 40 with "Just Like Heaven," a single from their seventh LP Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. It just barely made it peaking at #40. The song helped the album become their best effort in the US to-date reaching #35. It would eventually be a platinum seller. A follow-up single was needed and this track was selected. It was remixed for the release and on the Pop chart it didn't do all that well falling off after a few weeks. However, the remix was greeted well in clubs and it nearly cracked the Dance Top 10 at #11.

ReduxReview:  The Cure certainly liked to say things three times for this album. Not only was there Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, but "Hot Hot Hot!!!" and also the opening line of "Just Like Heaven," "show me, show me, show me!" This song even had "hey, hey, hey" in it. Three must have been a lucky number for them and it certainly worked out that way with the band scoring their first Top 40 single/album entries. While Robert Smith and The Cure were getting closer to striking that balance between alt rock and something more mainstream, such as "Just Like Heaven," the double-LP wasn't full of single candidates. This track with its funkier beat was probably the best option, but it wasn't necessarily a catchy, memorable single. I found it a bit kooky with Smith's manic rap/sung delivery nearly sounding like Falco. Back in the day if I had heard this song on the radio it might have gotten my attention, but not for the right reasons. I'm sure I would have thought, "what the hell is this?" I don't think that now, but I also don't think this was a good single choice.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  While there have been different songs with the same title to reach the Pop chart, such as Van Halen's "Jump" (#1, 1984) and Kris Kross' "Jump" (#1, 1992), it was rare that the two songs were on the chart at the same time. However, that happened with The Cure's "Hot Hot Hot!!!" The week that it debuted on the Pop chart, Buster Poindexter's "Hot Hot Hot" was in its final week on the Pop chart. It had previously peaked at #45. Usually, labels will avoid releasing a single that has the same title as one that had recently been on the chart. Case in point is another "Jump" song. The Pointer Sisters recorded a song called "Jump" for their album Break Out. The label wanted the song out as a single, but to avoid any confusion with the VH record, which had just hit #1, the label added a subtitle and released "Jump (For My Love)." Apparently, The Cure's label had no concerns releasing "Hot Hot Hot!!!" right on the heels of the Buster Poindexter's single. Perhaps they thought the three exclamations made enough of a difference or maybe they thought the audiences for each song would be different. Most likely no one thought The Cure was covering the Poindexter song, but on first glance at titles it might have been confusing for some folks, especially radio programmers and DJs.


Thursday, March 18, 2021

"Yes" by Merry Clayton

Song#:  3436
Date:  03/05/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  45
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This soul/gospel singer became one of the most prolific background vocalists in music. Although she attempted to break through as a solo artist, it never seemed to work in her favor. Her career, along with other famous background singers, was documented in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom. Clayton got her first break in 1962 when she was just fourteen. She was hired on to sing a duet with Bobby Darin for one of his albums and that led to her first recording contract. She then became the first person to record "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)," but when released as a single it went nowhere. A year later, Betty Everett took the song to #6. After the single failed, Clayton mainly stayed in the background singing with other artists such as Ray Charles (for a couple of years she was one of the Raelettes). Then in 1969, she famously sang with Mick Jagger on The Rolling Stones' classic "Gimme Shelter." That led to another recording contract, this time with Ode Records. She released a debut album in 1970 titled Gimme Shelter and her solo remake of the song got to #72 on the Pop chart. Three more albums would follow, but besides a few minor chart entries nothing much happened with her solo career. Still she remained an in-demand background vocalist and in 1987 she was doing that work on tracks for an upcoming film titled Dirty Dancing. One of the songs, "Yes," was to be recorded by Mary Wells (of "My Guy" fame, #1, 1964). Wells showed up to the studio, but was so sick that she just left the session. Stuck with no vocalist, the producer, Michael Lloyd, asked Clayton if she would do the lead vocal. She agreed and the track became part of the enormously successful Dirty Dancing soundtrack. It would also be released as the fourth single from the album. Yet once again, Clayton was unable to score a major hit with the tune only getting near the Pop Top 40 while stalling at #49 AC and #79 R&B. It would be Clayton's final charting single. In 1994, she recorded a gospel album titled Miracles, which was produced by her "Yes" collaborator Michael Lloyd. Clayton would still continue to support many artists over the years including indie/rock artists like Tori Amos and Coldplay.

ReduxReview:  This track is right out of the Pointer Sisters' playbook. It wouldn't shock me if this had been pitched to the trio. It would have been a good fit for them and might have supplied them with a much needed hit. It could have been a selection for Patti LaBelle as well. However, it ended up over on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack and Clayton got the opportunity to record it. This was a bouncy, upbeat, joyous tune expertly sung by Clayton that should have done better. I'm not sure why it didn't. The week after this song debuted on the Pop chart the soundtrack returned to #1 for an additional nine-week run after already spending nine weeks previously at the top. It seems like that would have helped boost this single, yet it stalled early. The perky synthpop track wasn't necessarily like the previous three Top 10s from the album, so maybe it wasn't the track fans of the movie wanted to hear on the radio. Or maybe the style of the song was just slightly dated and would have done better a few years earlier. I've always liked the song and thought it should have done better.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The story of how Clayton ended up on the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" is pretty famous and was recounted in the 20 Feet from Stardom doc. While the bulk of the song had been recorded in London, the band recorded the vocals in Los Angeles. During the mixing phase, the band and their producer, Jimmy Miller, thought a female vocal would be great on the chorus and set a task for arranger/producer Jack Nitzsche to secure someone asap. According to some accounts, Nitzsche tried to get Bonnie Bramlett (of Delaney & Bonnie fame) to come in, but her husband wouldn't allow it. Nitzsche then called on an old friend of his, Merry Clayton. It was around midnight when she got the call. Clayton was very pregnant at the time, in bed, and wasn't keen on leaving the house. But when her husband found out the job was for the Stones, he told her that she probably should go. Clayton apparently arrived at the studio in a robe and curlers. She asked what they wanted and set out to do the vocal. They encouraged her to really push the vocal and it seems the third take did the trick. At one point in the song, Clayton pushed her vocal so much that her voice cracked. It was exactly what the Stones were looking for and on the recording right after it, you can hear Mick Jagger's approval with him going "Whooo!" The session was a blessing and a curse for Clayton. While the song became an instant classic and her vocal lauded, after returning home from the session, Clayton suffered a miscarriage. While it can't be singularly tied to the session, it was thought that the stress from the intense vocal work and the late night hour may have contributed to the miscarriage. "Gimme Shelter" is not the only classic rock song Clayton has performed on. She (along with Clyde King) also did background vocals on Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1974 #8 "Sweet Home Alabama."


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

"Samantha (What You Gonna Do?) by Cellarful of Noise

Song#:  3435
Date:  03/05/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  69
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Power Pop, Synth Rock

Pop Bits:  Avsec had been working with rocker Donnie Iris since the late 70s when both were briefly members of the funk-rock band Wild Cherry. After Wild Cherry broke up in '79, Iris and Avsec teamed up to form Donnie Iris & the Cruisers. Over the course of five albums, which were credited solely to Donnie Iris on the covers, Iris and Avsec collaborated on the majority of the band's material including what is arguably their most recognized hit, 1980's "Ah! Leah!" (#29 Pop/#19 Rock). Sometime in '84, Avsec decided to write a bunch of songs on his own to see what would come up. He made some demos that through his manager ended up over at CBS. The label liked what they heard and wanted to release the demos as an album. Under the moniker Cellarful of Noise, Avsec released his first album apart from Iris in 1985 on the CBS Associated label. Nothing much happened with the LP, which seemed okay with Avsec as he considered his main job to be with Iris and the Cruisers. Unfortunately, the band ran into label issues twice and as of '86 were left on their own. With the Cruisers on a bit of a forced hiatus, Avsec decided to revive the Cellarful of Noise name and record a new album titled Magnificent Obsession. This time around, he asked Iris to lend a hand. Iris would co-write one song and provide the lead vocal on several of the tracks including this first single. Pushed out once again on CBS Associated, the song got a bit of attention and was able to spend a few weeks on the Pop chart. However, it wasn't enough to get the album on the chart. After the lackluster results, Avsec and Iris got the Cruisers back to work. They would release several indie albums over the years and would remain a popular touring act.

ReduxReview:  Although there are a lot of songs out there surrounding the subject of abortion, only a minor few have actually become hits. "Brick" from Ben Folds Five (1998, #19 Airplay, #6 Modern Rock) comes to mind along with The Verve Pipe's 1997 "The Freshmen" (#5 Pop). And perhaps even Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" (#1 Pop), which contained the line "but I've made up my mind, I'm keeping my baby." It's a controversial subject and one that, for many folks, isn't necessarily suited for pop radio, so I think most labels shied away from pushing out singles that hit on the topic. However, CBS got this one out and on the chart and I can't find any evidence that there was a negative reaction to it based on the lyrics. I'm thinking what sort of kept it from being controversial was that the title question was never answered. Samantha was trying to make a difficult choice and we never find out what happened. Therefore, the listener could interpret it any way they choose. It was an interesting approach, but still odd for a single. The song is memorable to me for the near-yodeling chorus followed by the high-pitched "Samantha!" in the background. It grabs your attention and makes you want to listen. The production is dense, meaty, and definitely loaded with 80s synth rock sounds. Then there is a sneaky key change after the bridge. It's a terrific power pop track from the late 80s and one that should have probably cracked the Top 40.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The band name came from Brian Epstein's 1964 autobiography A Cellarful of Noise. The book was mainly about Epstein's early years with The Beatles. The title was most likely a reference to the underground venues such as The Cavern Club where The Beatles first performed. Although I can't find proof, several sites state that in an interview, John Lennon once mentioned that he thought the book should have been titled A Cellarful of Boys, which was an allusion to Epstein's homosexuality that a close circle of folks knew about, but was not publicly known or acknowledged until after his death due to accidental overdose in 1967.  2) In the mid-80s, Avsec was sued for copyright infringement for the song "Ah! Leah!" While he was encouraged to settle the case, Avsec knew he was absolutely innocent and decided to fight the suit. He ended up winning, but it cost him all the royalties he had earned to that point from the song for all the legal fees. The unfairness of the situation prompted Avsec to pursue a law degree so that he could help others in similar situations. He graduated from law school at the age of 40 and went on to work for law firms in addition to teaching law. Along the way he continued a music career with Iris and the Cruisers.


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

"Where Do Broken Hearts Go" by Whitney Houston

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3434
Date:  02/27/1988
Debut:  47
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Houston scored her sixth #1 Pop hit in a row with "So Emotional," the third single from her second album Whitney. She kept that streak going with this fourth single, which also topped the Pop chart. It also got to #1 AC and #2 R&B. With this song going to #1 at Pop, it set two chart records. First, it made Houston the first female artist to have four singles from one album get to #1. Four other female artists would later achieve that feat with Katy Perry breaking the tie by getting five #1s from her 2010 album Teenage Dream. Second, Houston became the first artist to have seven consecutive #1s on the Pop chart. She had previously been tied with the Beatles and the Bee Gees with six, but this one gave her sole possession of the feat. As of this writing, that record still stands. At the time, the vinyl version of this song didn't sell enough to go gold, but later in 2020, the digital version of the song was given a gold certification.

ReduxReview:  So where do broken hearts go? Who the hell knows? Or cares? Yeah, the lyrics to this song were not the best, but it had an interesting title and was a strong power ballad that was certainly right up Houston's alley. It was the best ballad on the album and was a much easier listen than the laborious "Didn't We Almost Have It All." Was it on par with some of her other classic singles? Not really, but it was a solid hit that did its job by earning Houston a seventh consecutive #1.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Sometimes singers who don't write their own songs are not necessarily happy with the tunes they end up recording. Tina Turner later confessed that at first she didn't like "What's Love Got to Do with It" and didn't want to record it, but was finally convinced to do so. More famously, Frank Sinatra absolutely hated his 1966 #1 hit "Strangers in the Night." At one point he called it "the worst fucking song I ever heard." He would even say as such when having to perform it in concert, but audiences didn't care. The tune was Sinatra's first #1 in over a decade and the album also went to #1. It even earned Sinatra two Grammys, one for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, and one for Record of the Year. Yet, he still considered it "a piece of shit." Whitney Houston may not have hated "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" that much, but apparently she wasn't fond of the power ballad. It seems she thought the song's lyrics didn't have a lot of impact and she wanted something with more meaning. The title also seemed to confuse her as the song never addresses the title question. In other words, she just didn't connect with it. However, Clive Davis was convinced it was a #1 song and goaded her into recording it. He ended up being right and it set chart records for Houston. However, she was then stuck performing the song for years after.


Monday, March 15, 2021

"I Saw Him Standing There" by Tiffany

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3433
Date:  02/27/1988
Debut:  56
Peak:  7
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This teenager's self-titled debut album started off slow, but finally took off after its second single, "I Think We're Alone Now," hit #1. With its third single, "Could've Been," also topping the chart, the album then made it to #1 for a couple of weeks in late January of '88. To keep things rolling, this next single was issued out. While it would not top the Pop chart, it did well by cracking the Top 10. The hit helped the album sell more copies and by April of '88, it would reach its last certification level of 4x platinum.

ReduxReview:  No. Just no. In fact, hell no. Pop music is full of atrocious covers, but this one has to rank among the most heinous. Not only is it just plain awful, but it is a desecration of a classic Beatles song. It is musical sacrilege. Of course Tiffany participated, but I don't know if I can really place the blame on her for this. Chances are good that the young teen didn't even know the song and perhaps knew little about the Beatles. Her career and choices at at the time were masterminded by producer George Tobin and I place the blame for this squarely on him. His idea to cover this song along with the ridiculous arrangement and obnoxious, hyperactive production was the equivalent of musical murder. He should have been arrested, tried, and convicted for this crime against music and the Beatles. I didn't like Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now," but I didn't think things could get worse especially after the bright spot of "Could've Been," but I was way wrong. At this point in the blog, only two songs have been so bad that I rated them a zero. I can now up that total to three with this travesty.

ReduxRating:  0/10

Trivia:  This is a cover of a song originally recorded by the Beatles. Written mainly by Paul McCartney along with John Lennon, the tune was first released as the opening track on the band's 1963 UK debut album Please Please Me. In the US, the song would first appear as the b-side to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," which was released in December of '63 and would be the Beatles' first #1 spending seven weeks at the top of the Pop chart. Due to the major success of that single, "I Saw Him Standing There" picked up airplay as well and it would chart separately getting to #14. Both songs would be included on the band's second US album Meet the Beatles! Many artists would cover the song, but thus far Tiffany's role-reversed version is the only other one to reach the Pop chart.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

"One Step Up" by Bruce Springsteen

Song#:  3432
Date:  02/27/1988
Debut:  64
Peak:  13
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Springsteen's Tunnel of Love album would perform quite well. It would be his fourth to reach #1 and would be a multi-platinum seller. However, its darker, more personal tone most likely kept it from getting close to the career-defining blockbuster success of his 1984 album Born in the U.S.A. Still, the LP generated a couple of Top 10 hits right off the bat including the #9 title track. Hoping to keep the Top 10 streak going, this third single was released. It would do well at Rock, getting to #2, while becoming his fourth Top 10 on the AC chart at #3. Over on the Pop chart, the song cracked the Top 20, but it faltered and was unable to get inside the Top 10. Oddly, there would be no further singles officially released from the album in the US. Two other tracks, "Tougher Than the Rest" and "Spare Parts," would be issued as singles in other countries while "All That Heaven Will Allow" along with "Spare Parts" would receive enough airplay in the US to reach #5 and #28, respectively, on the Rock chart. The b-side of "One Step Up" was "Roulette," which had originally been recorded during sessions for Springsteen's 1980 album The River. It also made the Rock chart at #45.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those songs that I liked back in the day but it took me years to fully appreciate it. Sometimes you have to gain maturity or experience to really understand a lyric and at the time this song came out I hadn't been in a real relationship and all that it entails. Flash forward a decade or two after going through some shit (like we all do) and this song sounded totally different. As they say, it gave me the feels. While my situations may not have been exactly the same, I had an understanding of what Springsteen's lyrics were about and I could relate. There are a lot of songs that we can listen to, enjoy, and comprehend. Then there are those songs where you feel as if you've lived the lyrics. I think this is one of those songs for a lot of people.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) While some songs on Tunnel of Love were about relationships falling apart, "One Step Up" was certainly one of the more personal ones for Springsteen. At the time he was married to actress Julianne Phillips and things were not going well. Not long after this single was released, the pair would separate. Six months later, Phillips would file for divorce. Springsteen recorded "One Step Up" by himself playing all of the instruments. There is only one other person heard on the recording and that is the voice of Patti Scialfa, the woman Springsteen would eventually marry in 1991.  2) In August of '88, Springsteen would release an EP titled Chimes of Freedom. It contained four live tracks including the title song, which was a cover version of Bob Dylan's 1964 original. The EP was released to support the upcoming Human Rights Now! tour that Springsteen was headlining. The tour was a benefit for Amnesty International. Twenty shows were schedule around the world including three in the US. Springsteen would be joined by other artists like Sting and Peter Gabriel with various special guests joining them for the shows. In the US, Joan Baez would appear at all three concerts while Bono and The Edge joined for one and Roy Orbison performing for one. Springsteen performed "Chimes of Freedom" during his Tunnel of Love Express tour to announce the upcoming concert events. On the Human Rights Now! tour, he would perform the song along with the other artists on the bill. While "Chimes of Freedom" was not officially released as a single, the track did get to #16 on the Rock chart. Oddly, the EP failed to chart in the US and did not get a sales certification. However, it sold well enough in Canada to go gold.