Saturday, April 10, 2021

"Always on My Mind" by Pet Shop Boys

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3459
Date:  03/26/1988
Debut:  61
Peak:  4
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  The Pet Shop Boys' second album, Actually, would be a gold seller that added two more Top 10 hits to their tally; "It's a Sin" (#9) and "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" (#2). While it seemed natural that a third single would come from the album, that didn't happen. Instead, this one-off single that had reached #1 in the UK over the Christmas of '87 was issued out. The song quickly caught on and it became the duo's fifth Top 10 hit in the US. It also got to #8 Dance. Unfortunately, it would end up being their last single to reach the US Pop Top 10. In the UK, this song would be followed up by another Actually track, "Heart." It would soar to #1. Oddly, no further singles from Actually would be released in the US.

ReduxReview:  This should not have worked. Like, at all. Taking a beloved Elvis ballad and turning it into a Euro-dance piece seemed like a bad idea and a potential disaster. However, PSB somehow pulled it off and gave the song its highest placement of any version in both the UK and the US. How was this possible? I think there are a couple reasons. First, the duo were arguably at the peak of their popularity coming off of "What Have I Done to Deserve This," so they had momentum. Second, they didn't overthink it. They simply took the song and respectfully spun it through their world. They upped the tempo, added some synth hooky synth licks, and incorporated a little minor chord progression at the end of the verse, which made for an interesting transition. The melody and sentiment was still there. It was just taken to the club dance floor. I remember when this came out I hadn't purchased Actually yet. I was glad I waited because after this song started to shape up as a hit, they repackaged the LP to include the 12" vinyl single along with the regular album. The one thing I hold against the hit is that it interrupted the singles from Actually. "Heart" should have been a hit in the US. It was so strange it didn't get released after this song, but I'm guessing the first single from their next LP Introspective was nearly ready to go, so the timing of singles got skewed due to "Always on My Mind" coming out of the blue. Still, this made for an interesting song in their catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of song that became strongly associated with Elvis Presley. Presley recorded the song in 1972 and it was first issued out as the b-side to "Separate Ways," which got to #20 Pop. The single became a double a-sided hit on the Country chart reaching #16. In the UK, "Always on My Mind" was the a-side and it went to #9. It is often considered one of Presley's finest recordings. However, Presley was not the first artist to record the song. B.J. Thomas was the first to attempt the tune in 1970. It was initially scheduled to be a single, but for some reason the track got shelved. The first artist to record and release the song was soul singer Gwen McCrae in 1972. Titled "You Were Always on My Mind," the song failed to chart. Then the first person to record and chart with the song was Brenda Lee. Her 1972 version got to #45 Country. Presley's version came next. Country singer John Wesley Ryles would get to #20 on the Country chart with a version in 1979. The song would finally get on the Pop chart thanks to Willie Nelson. His 1982 take would get to #5 Pop/#1 Country. Although there have been a reported 300 recorded covers of the song, thus far the only other act to have a version make the Pop chart as been Pet Shop Boys, which got one notch higher than Nelson's single.  2) This song came about when Pet Shop Boys were asked to be a part of Love Me Tender, a British TV special that was done for the tenth anniversary of Elvis Presley's death. For the show, Pet Shop Boys chose to cover "Always on My Mind," which was a #9 hit in the UK for Presley. It seems folks loved their take on the song so much that PSB decided to push it out as a single. It became their third UK #1. Later in '88, they would re-record the song and combine it with their techno track "In My House" for their Introspective album.


Friday, April 9, 2021

"Promise Me" by The Cover Girls

Song#:  3458
Date:  03/26/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  40
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This Latin freestyle trio finally cracked the Pop Top 40 with their third single "Because of You." It got to #27 while reaching #16 at Dance. The track was from their debut album Show Me as was this follow-up single. The change of pace ballad would just barely become the trio's second Pop Top 40 entry. Despite the low peak, the song was a slow bloomer that took its time catching on in various regions and it would spend a lengthy 19 weeks on the chart.

ReduxReview:  This ballad was something different from the dance-oriented act and it was a good selection to follow up their first Top 40 entry. It was a radio-friendly track that did fairly well. However, I found the track a little basic, bland and boring. The album version drones on for nearly 7 minutes while the single was slightly more concise at over 4 minutes. After a couple minutes of either one of them, I was kind of done. Nothing about it grabbed my attention and made me want to hear it again. Also, it may just be me or the way she sang it, but the lead vocal seemed to be ever so slightly flat throughout the song. That combined with her nasal, girlish tone put me off. It was not a bad song, it was just something that didn't hit my ears right.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This song was written and produced by Andy Tripoli, Albert Cabrera, and Tony Moran. The same trio also wrote (with Bobby Khozouri) and produced the trio's first single, the #4 Dance hit "Show Me" (#44 Pop). Cabrera and Moran had recently decided to work together as a production/remix team and dubbed themselves The Latin Rascals. The duo headed up remixes for artists like Aretha Franklin and Pet Shop Boys, but it was their work on "Show Me" that really amped up their career. They would work together and separately over the years with Moran earning two Grammy nods for Best Dance Recording for a pair of tracks he work on with Gloria Estefan. In addition to working for other artists, The Latin Rascals also released a couple of albums. Their first one was the unusual 1987 concept LP Bach to the Future on which the duo put their own electronic dance spin on classical pieces, such as the Pachelbel's Canon, which they turned into "Paco Bell Cannon." The first single from the LP, "Macho Mozart," became a popular club song that got to #14 on the Dance chart. Their next single was a combination of the album track "Arabian Knights" along with a song they wrote for the soundtrack to the comedy flick Disorderlies titled "Disorderly Conduct." The combo single got to #22 at Dance. The following year, they recorded a more straight-forward dance album titled When She Goes. Two songs from the LP made the Dance chart near the Top 30 mark. After that, it seems their focus turned to working with other artists. Over the years, both Moran and Cabrera would also do a few of their own solo works.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

"Presence of Love" by The Alarm

Song#:  3457
Date:  03/26/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  77
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  The Welsh band got their second single on the US Pop chart with "Rain in the Summertime" (#6 Rock), the first single from their third album Eye of the Hurricane. The Rock hit helped the album reach #77. For a follow-up, this next track was selected for release. It would get to #16 at Rock, but it struggled on the Pop chart where it ended up staying in the bottom quarter for a few weeks. Another track from the album, "Rescue Me," would not be released as a single, but it would garner enough airplay to reach #35 on the Rock chart.

ReduxReview:  This chuggin' track was a nice follow-up to "Rain in the Summertime." It wasn't a song that was gonna make you go "wow!" when you heard it on the radio, but it had an easy going pop feel that made it a pleasant listen. While the band got fairly/unfairly judged as a U2-ish clone, they often had tracks that set them apart from that superstar Irish band and I think this was one of them. The tune wasn't going to be a big hit, but it was a good single that should have done a bit better on the chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In 2004, The Alarm's lead singer/songwriter Mike Peters would perpetrate a musical hoax that would garner a lot of attention. It seems Peters was getting frustrated that both industry execs and music listeners were only interest in the latest thing and that older artists were totally ignored even though their music was just as good and viable. Peters had just recorded a new song with a version of The Alarm he had formed and he thought it had hit potential. However, he knew if he tried to push it to a record company as by The Alarm, it would get ignored. So he decided to release it under the pseudonym The Poppy Fields and created a story that they were a teenage band from Chester, England. He then hired a young local band to portray The Poppy Fields in a music video.  Peters got the record pushed out along with the video and it started to get attention. Before long, the single, "45 RPM," made the UK chart and got to #28. Suddenly, music execs and others were desperately trying to find out more about this hot new band. Peters eventually revealed the truth and basically proved his point. The story of the hoax later became the basis for the 2012 film Vinyl.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

"Turn Off the Lights" by World Class Wreckin' Cru

Song#:  3456
Date:  03/26/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  84
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Electro, Hip-Hop

Pop Bits:  This DJ collective had a bit of a confusing history. In the 70s, a popular L.A. DJ named Alonzo Williams developed an act called Disco Construction that performed around the city. The act became enough of a draw that William was able to open up his own night club, Eve After Dark, in '79. However, around that time the musical landscape was changing and Williams decided to develop another act that incorporated electro-funk and old school hip-hop/rap. Initially called the Wreckin' Cru, Williams hired on a pair of DJs along with a female vocalist and other musicians to make up the group. As they became a popular act, Williams got them in the studio to record tracks for his own label, Kru-Cut. Now called the World Class Wreckin' Cru, they released a debut album titled World Class in 1985. It became popular enough for the group to get signed to Epic Records. A second album, Rapped in Romance, was issued out, but neither it nor its singles made any impact and the group lost their deal. Still, the group soldiered on and after personnel changes, they recorded a few more tunes including the slow jam "Turn Off the Lights." It got pushed out on the Kru-Cut label and it started to catch on. It eventually made the R&B chart and would peak at #30. It then crossed over to Pop and although it stayed on the chart for nearly three months, it could only manage a #84 peak. A second single, "Lay Your Body Down," would get to #54 R&B. However, as the Wreckin' Cru were breaking on a more national level, the various members were going off to do their own projects. Williams tried to keep the Wreckin' Cru name alive and recorded the 1990 album Phases of Life mostly on his own, but it failed to do anything. With that result, the Cru project came to an end.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't sure where this song was going when it first started. It sounded a little eerie and mysterious before the vocals came in. Then there was the slow intro rap that was more like a recitation than a rap. It was an unusual, yet interesting start that got my attention, but the song truly came alive when Michel'le came in on the chorus. Wow. Apparently, she was 16 when she did this vocal. She just totally wailed and crushed it. She sounded like a seasoned vet who had been singing for decades. The raps done by each member are fine, but it was Michel'le that truly sold the song. She was pure fire. She went on to have a hit song and gold debut album, but then her career went south most likely due to horrible, abusive relationships with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight along with a period of substance abuse. It was too bad as she was very talented and had a killer voice. She should have had a much bigger career. This song got things kicked off for her and she knocked it out of the park.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The World Class Wreckin' Cru basically became the launching pad for a trio of artists that would go on to much greater success. When Williams was forming the group, he hired on a couple of popular local DJs, Andre Young and Antoine Carraby, aka Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, respectively. Prior to this song getting on the charts, Dr. Dre had begun working with rapper Eazy-E on some tracks. In addition, another rapper by the name of Ice Cube was penning material for the Wreckin' Cru. At some point, Dr. Dre ended up in jail due to traffic tickets. Having apparently bailed him out before, Williams refused to do it again. Eazy-E then stepped in and got Dr. Dre out on the condition that Dre would jump ship and join his Ruthless Records as a producer. Dre did and it wasn't long before he, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, and Ice Cube, along with the Arabian Prince, formed the iconic rap group N.W.A. Their seminal debut album Straight Outta Compton would be released in August of '88. Aside from Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, the other person from the Wreckin' Cru to have success was Dre's girlfriend at the time Michel'le. She would sign up with Ruthless Records and issue out a self-titled debut album in '89. It would be a gold seller thanks to the gold #7 Pop/#2 R&B hit "No More Lies."


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

"Sweet Lies" by Robert Palmer

Song#:  3455
Date:  03/26/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  94
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Late in 1985, Palmer released what would end up being his best performing album, Riptide. It would reach #8 and go double-platinum thanks to a pair of Top 10 hits; the classic #1 "Addicted to Love" and the #2 "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On." He spent most of '87 relocating to Switzerland and preparing his next album, which wouldn't be ready for release until the summer of '88. In the meantime, Palmer was tapped to supply some music for an upcoming film titled Sweet Lies. He would write/co-write and record three songs for the movie including the title track. All of them would be featured on the film's soundtrack album. To promote the LP and the film, this title track single was released. It would barely be a blip on the Pop chart spending a very minor two weeks near the bottom. Since it got nowhere, the album failed to chart. Palmer would have better luck with singles from his next album..

ReduxReview:  I don't know what Palmer was going for here. It kind of sounds like his attempt at a cool, sophisti-pop tune, but it didn't work at all. I find the track very muddled. I had a hard time trying to make out the lyrics as Palmer seems to slur them together and the production doesn't help. He gets overrun by the fretless bass and other effects. Then the chorus, or what I assume to be the chorus, doesn't hit until near the halfway mark. It was an odd song and one that was nowhere near being single-worthy. Not one of Palmer's best moments.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  The film Sweet Lies was a rom-com that starred Treat Williams. In it, Williams played an insurance investigator who finds himself in Paris for work, but then gets tangled up as the objective of a seduction bet between three women. Of course things get complicated when the women end up falling for the guy. It was directed by French actress Nathalie Delon. The movie was produced by Island Pictures, an offshoot of Island Records, which just happened to be Robert Palmer's label. How convenient! Island got Palmer on board, but his songs didn't do anything for his career or for the movie, which quickly came and went to little notice.


Monday, April 5, 2021

"Shattered Dreams" by Johnny Hates Jazz

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3454
Date:  03/19/1988
Debut:  63
Peak:  2
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop

Pop Bits:  This UK trio consisted of Clark Datchler, Mike Nocito, and Calvin Hayes. Back in '82, Datchler and Hayes were in a band called Hot Club that was signed to RAK Records. They attempted to break through with a couple of singles, but neither clicked. Then Datchler was offered a solo deal with RAK and began working on tracks in the studio. Hayes helped out along with RAK engineer/producer Nocito. A couple of singles from the sessions were released, but again nothing came from them. Along the way, Datchler, Hayes, and Nocito became a working unit and they eventually evolved into what would become Johnny Hates Jazz, the moniker apparently coming from a friend who, well, hated jazz. Their first release was the single "Me and My Foolish Heart." It didn't get anywhere, but it did receive some good notices and picked up airplay, which then led to a contract with Virgin Records. Next for release was "Shattered Dreams." The song took off in the UK in the spring of '87 and eventually got to #5. The trio then had to get something else out as a follow-up and released "I Don't Want to Be a Hero," which topped out at #11. An album titled Turn Back the Clock was quickly assembled and issued out in January of '88. It would get to #1 and go platinum. While all this was going on, "Shattered Dreams" received a US release in March of '88. It would do even better getting to #2 on the Pop chart and stay there for three weeks. It would also get to #1 on the AC chart. The hit would help the album get to #56.

ReduxReview:  I loved this sleek track from the first listen and immediately bought the single back in the day. It was a well-crafted song with a terrific, catchy chorus. It also had a dreamy, glossy late-80s production and an arrangement that provided musical hooks as well. I'd rank this high on a list of the best 80s sophisti-pop tracks alongside classics by acts like ABC and Spandau Ballet. I ended up buying the album too, which I thought was underrated and overlooked at the time.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  JHJ member Calvin Hayes had a bit of a leg up when it came to the music business. His dad was producer, studio owner, and RAK Records founder Mickie Most (real name Michael Peter Hayes). Most began in music as a performer and in the late 50s had success mainly in South Africa fronting Mickie Most and His Playboys. But the rigors of touring wore on Most and he began to work behind the scenes as a producer. Among his first efforts was the 1964 classic #1 hit by the Animals "House of the Rising Sun." Success with other artists following including hits by Herman's Hermits, Brenda Lee, and Donovan. The success led him to develop his own label RAK Records. He signed many artists to the label including Suzi Quatro and Hot Chocolate ("You Sexy Thing," #3, 1975). Among his discoveries was Kim Wilde, whom he heard sing in a studio session backing her father Marty. Her first three albums were on RAK including her self-titled debut, which spawned the hit "Kids in America." In the early 80s, Most would sign a band called Hot Club. That band featured his son Calvin Hayes. Hot Club didn't get far, but Hayes was able to stick around his dad's studio, which led to him working with Clark Datchler. Then Mike Nocito came along and Johnny Hates Jazz was formed. Their first single would be issued out on RAK. However, not long after that single was released, Most would sell RAK to EMI. Johnny Hates Jazz would then move over to Virgin Records. The RAK label and publishing company (along with the EMI sale) help put Most on the list of the richest people in the UK in the 90s with his mansion, Montebello, supposedly one of largest private residences to be built in London since WWII. Most would die in 2003 from asbestos-related cancer.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

"I Don't Want to Live Without You" by Foreigner

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3453
Date:  03/19/1988
Debut:  64
Peak:  5
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Foreigner's sixth album, Inside Information, started off well with the #6 hit "Say You Will" (#1 Rock). To follow it up, this ballad was released. It would do slightly better than their previous single peaking one notch higher to become their ninth Pop Top 10. It wasn't as well received at Rock where the song stalled at #18. However, it was highly successful at AC where it became their first and only #1 on that chart. The single certainly helped sales of the album, which would be certified platinum in April of '88. However, it didn't push the album further up the chart and it remained the band's first LP to not reach the Top 10 (#15). While a platinum album was nothing to sneeze at, it was their first to not go multi-platinum. All of their previous releases had at least reached 3x platinum, so the singular platinum level was a bit of a disappointment. This song would be the band's last to reach the Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  "Say You Will" wasn't as rock-oriented as their earlier hits, but it was a good mainstream single that kept their streak of hits going. The change in sound was apparent throughout a chunk of the album, but not as much as on this dreamy mid-tempo ballad. The atmospheric verse kind of reminded me of 10cc's 1975 hit "I'm Not in Love." Not a bad comparison, but this song wasn't nearly as good and 70s soft rock wasn't something that I expected from Foreigner in the late 80s. I'm guessing band member Mick Jones had his sights set on the charts when he wrote this tune. It was melodic, hooky, and prime for mainstream crossover action. I'm sure the pop tune frustrated longtime fans of the band's rock sound and that seemed to be reflected in the slower album sales . This song was well-crafted and perfect for pop/AC radio, but I was never a big fan. It was like Foreigner's bid to be included in the corporate yacht rock club.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Band member Lou Gramm had success with a solo album in '87, so following Inside Information, the band's guitarist and other main songwriter Mick Jones decided to give it a go. He would record a self-titled solo disc and release it in '89. It's first single, "Just Wanna Hold," which featured a guest appearance by Billy Joel, would get to #16 at Rock, but fail to make the Pop chart. A second single, "Everything That Comes Around," didn't get anywhere and with those results the album peaked at a very minor #184. It would end up being Jones' only solo effort.