Saturday, April 17, 2021

"Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil

Song#:  3466
Date:  04/02/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  17
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This band from Australia first formed in 1972 as a part-time covers band named Farm. Over the next few years, their popularity grew as did their sound and experience. They began to write their own songs and soon decided to pursue the band full-time. In '76, the band chose to change their name to Midnight Oil, form their own record label, and record a self-titled debut album. It was issued out in '78 and it made the Aussie chart at #43. A second LP, Head Injuries, came out the following year and got to #36. Their growing popularity prompted CBS Records to pick up the band. With a bit more promo power behind them, their third album, Place Without a Postcard, spawned a pair of Top 40 singles and got to #12, but it would be their fourth effort, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 that made them stars in Australia. It got to #3 thanks to their first Top 10 hit, the #8 "Power and the Passion." Its success spurred a US release and it charted at #178. In '84, Red Sails in the Sunset would be their first Aussie #1 (#177 US). They finally broke through in a more international way with their sixth album Diesel and Dust. At home the LP would hit #1 and spawn two Top 10 hits including this single, which was the first one released in the US. It would easily get to #6 at Rock. While it was climbing that chart, the tune crossed over to Pop and made its way up the chart nearly cracking the Top 10. The hit helped the album get to #21. It would eventually become a platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  I'm fairly certain that many folks in the US had no idea what this song was really about when it came out. I admit that I didn't. Australian history wasn't a top priority in my little farm school. Still, the hard charging track struck a chord with people even if they didn't understand lines like "from Kintore east to Yuendmu." In addition to the hooky chorus, the unmistakable voice of lead singer Peter Garrett certainly made this track stand out. Although I didn't know what the lyrics were truly about, I knew the song was important. There was a powerful feel to the track that commanded attention. It was like a rallying cry. The fact that this political Aussie-centric tune became a hit in America was pretty remarkable, but then again, we could/should relate. We have our own ugly past here in the US and I'm sure many folks recognized our own history in the lyrics. The album was just as powerful and it still resonates today.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Midnight Oil were known for incorporating political and environmental issues in their songs, but it was Diesel and Dust that became their most powerful statement. The idea for the conceptual album came about when the band did a tour of the Australian Outback and performed for Aboriginal communities. Seeing the condition of the places and people that had been forcibly removed from their lands to these remote places spurred the band to write about the treatment of native Australians. The LP contained themes about recognizing the awful mistakes of the past, the ongoing poor treatment of native Australians, and for joining together. "Beds Are Burning" was a call to give land back to the Pintupi, a Western Australia Aboriginal group forced to move in the 60s with the intent to try and assimilate the traditional living people into white society. Most of the Pintupi people ended up in the Papunya government settlement where other Aboriginal groups were also forced to go. Poor living conditions and disease was common and young children were removed from their parent's care and transferred to institutions and orphanages. In recent decades, there has been more of a focus on Ingeniousness rights, but problems and prejudices still exist.


Friday, April 16, 2021

"Never Die Young" by James Taylor

Song#:  3465
Date:  04/02/1988
Debut:  88
Peak:  80
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Soft Rock, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After nearly quitting the business, Taylor returned to music in 1985 with his first album in four years, That's Why I'm Here. It was a gold (eventually platinum) seller spurred on by the #3 AC hit "Everyday." He would finally follow up that album three years later with his twelfth studio effort Never Die Young. This title-track single was released and it easily sailed to #3 on the AC chart. The song was able to get on the Pop chart, but it disappeared after a few short week. Still, the LP sold well and it was able to reach #24. It would quickly go gold and then later in '94 it would reach platinum status. This single would end up being Taylor's last to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  I was never a huge fan of Taylor's easy-going brand of soft rock. He obviously had a few classics in his catalog that were difficult to dislike, but in general he didn't do that much for me. Beyond his prime hit making days, Taylor didn't really expand on his basic sound. Unlike some other 70s singer/songwriters, he didn't dabble in disco or follow trends/new sounds like synthpop. He was James Taylor and he didn't waver from that. He stayed in his own lane and for decades kept the fans coming back. There is nothing wrong with that and for those that loved Taylor, his music was like a familiar blanket that would come around every few years to wrap you in a warm feeling. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of those fans. His music blended together and sounded the same, kind of like this single. While it's a nice tune and a pleasant listen, it just sounds like...well...James Taylor. There is little here that I haven't heard before from him. I guess you could say that I just don't "get" Taylor and I'm fine with that.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Taylor's next LP, 1991's New Moon Shine, would do pretty much the same as his previous two. It got to #37 and eventually went platinum. After that, Taylor took an extended break. In 1997, he released what was considered to be a true comeback effort. Hourglass would be a critical success that would reach #9, go platinum, and earn Taylor a Grammy for Best Pop Album. It was his first Grammy since 1977. In the 2000s, Taylor released two studio album, both got to #4, and a platinum-selling Christmas collection. His star stayed strong into the next decade and in 2015 his album Before This World became his first ever to reach #1. Five years later, he would put out a collection of cover tunes titled American Standard. It would get to #4 and go on to with the Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

"Kiss Me Deadly" by Lita Ford

Song#:  3464
Date:  04/02/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  12
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  Ford initially made a name for herself as the lead guitarist of the all-female rock band The Runaways. Although the group only stayed together for a 4-year period, they were highly popular and influential. Following The Runaway's breakup in 1979, Ford chose to seek a solo career. By '82, she had signed with Mercury Records and had issued out her first solo LP Out for Blood. It failed to sell, but Mercury gave her another chance and she released Dancin' on the Edge in '84. It did much better reaching #66 on the chart thanks in part to exposure on MTV and the #51 Rock track "Gotta Let Go." The album also earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female. It seems Ford then began to record a third album tentatively titled The Bride Wore Black, but it went unfinished. Ford then got new management (Sharon Osbourne) and moved over to RCA Records. For her third album, Lita, she chose to update her sound to be more in line with other glam metal artists who were getting songs on the Pop chart. Hit making producer Mike Chapman would help shape Ford's new sound and it was on display with this first single. While it would only get to #40 at Rock, the song took off at Pop and nearly cracked the Top 10. It helped the album sell well, but it would be the LP's third single that would provide Ford with her peak moment.

ReduxReview:  While the opening lyric seems a tad PG now, I remember it being kind of a big thing back in the day. "I didn't get laid, I got in a fight." Just the word "laid" had connotations in itself, but the fact that this was coming from a woman was nearly shocking. It really shouldn't have been, but the double-standard was highly in play. It was like, "oh, well obviously she's a nasty tramp." Yet had Poison released the song, it would not have been a big deal - "oh, they are just boys having fun." What a bunch of crap. I thought the same back then. I was like "yeah! you go, girl!" There has definitely been some progress made since then, but the double standard still exists. Just prior to me writing this post Megan Thee Stallion was being called out for her duet with Cardi B, "WAP," and its sexual lyrics. Besides conservatives, who basically condemn everything, a good chunk of the backlash came from - surprise - men. Even some male rap artists who have certainly waxed poetic on their tracks about their body parts and what they do with women in explicit fashion balked at Megan's lyrics. Hypocrites. It just goes to show that the double standard is still sadly out there. But I digress. I think Ford's bold initial declaration was awesome and the song was a chewy piece of glam rock candy. It was well-written, produced, and performed, and it should have made the Top 10. I didn't bother with buying the single; I got the album. It is still a fun track and ranks among the best glam rock singles of the late 80s. I also remember that when this song came out, I was a DJ at the local skating rink and I was not allowed to play the song because of the opening line. Everyone was requesting the song, but I couldn't play it. I finally convinced the management to let me skip over the opening and just start it from when the band enters. Yeesh.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The Runaways began to form after producer Kim Fowley put drummer Sandy West in touch with guitarist Joan Jett. The pair decided to get a band together and with Fowley's help three more members were found including guitarist Lita Ford. After cutting their teeth on the club circuit, the band got signed to Mercury Records. By this point, the band consisted of the classic lineup of West, Jett, Ford, Jackie Fox on bass, and Cherie Currie on lead vocals. The band would release a self-titled album in '76 that barely scraped the chart in the US. A second LP, Queens of Noise, would do about the same the following year. However, both did really well in other countries like Japan and Australia where their debut album went gold. While their albums were not big sellers in the US, the Runaways were a popular live act. A couple of personnel changes would follow along with two more albums, but tensions in the band about direction would eventually tear them apart and by '79 they were done. Each member would go on to solo work and other projects, but Joan Jett and Lita Ford would have the most success on their own. Early in the band's formation, West and Jett brought on board bassist Micki Steele. Her time in the band was brief as she was either pushed out or fired and replaced with Fox prior to the recording of the debut album. Steele would later have big success under her given name Michael Steele as a member of another all-female band, The Bangles.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

"Century's End" by Donald Fagen

Song#:  3463
Date:  04/02/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  83
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Soft Rock, Jazz-Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  After Steely Dan broke up, Donald Fagen moved ahead with a solo career and released the LP The Nightfly in 1982. The Grammy-nominated set would be a #11 platinum seller that contained the #26 Pop single "I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)." After that, Fagen seemed to stay quiet for most of the decade but did emerge with this soundtrack single. Fagen had been tapped to write the score for the Michael J. Fox drama flick Bright Lights, Big City. In addition, he wrote this song specifically for the movie and soundtrack album. It would be released as a single to help promote the LP, which got to #67. The song only managed a few weeks at the bottom of the Pop chart, but did better at Rock getting to #12 and AC where it got to #30.

ReduxReview:  This jazzy shuffle is a good tune that doesn't stray too far from Fagen's solo works or material with Steely Dan. It didn't really do much to advance his sound either, but it was a comfortable listen for anyone who was a fan of Fagen or Steely Dan. I was never a big fan of either, so this song kind of fell flat for me. It definitely wasn't something that was going to ride high on the Pop chart alongside Whitney, Rick Asltey, or Def Leppard. It was a little too subtle, jazzy, and arty to make any headway. The breezy track wasn't bad. It just wasn't much different from what Fagen had been doing since the early 70s.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Fagen would finally follow-up The Nightfly in 1993 with Kamakiriad. None of its single would reach the Pop chart, but "Tomorrow's Girls" would get to #20 Rock/#32 AC. Like its predecessor, it would also be nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy. The LP would get to #10 and go gold. Fagen would then come out with solo albums in 2006 and 2012. In 2000, he would reunite with Walter Becker for a new Steely Dan album titled Two Against Nature. The LP would get to #6 and go platinum. It also surprisingly won the Grammy for Album of the Year over favorites Radiohead (for Kid A) and Eminem (for The Marshall Mathers LP). It was their third time being nominated in the category. They also won two other Grammys that night. The three awards were their first Grammy wins after six previous nominations. The duo would then record 2003's Everything Must Go. It was less successful, but did get to #9. It would be their final album as Becker died in 2017.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"Get It On" by Kingdom Come

Song#:  3462
Date:  04/02/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  69
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  German-born singer/songwriter Lenny Wolf honed his skills at home with several bands before making the move to L.A. in '83 in search of something bigger and better. He ended up co-founding the band Stone Fury, who quickly got picked up by MCA Records. Their debut album Burns Like a Star got released in '84 and its first single "Break Down the Wall" made a minor impression at Rock getting to #47. The album got to #144. A follow-up LP arrived in '86, but it went nowhere and the band split. Wolf was then courted by Pologram Records. They signed him under the condition that he would form a new band, which he did. They became Kingdom Come and they would hire on Bob Rock to produce their self-titled debut album. This first single was released and it became a solid hit at Rock getting to #4. The tune would cross over to Pop, but it didn't do as well stalling in the bottom half of the chart. The attention the band got from the single allowed the album to reach #12 and go gold. The band was on the fast track to stardom, but some backlash (see below) curtailed their progress. Their second album, '89's In Your Face, didn't generate any charting songs and the album stopped at #49. A third LP for Polydor came and went quickly. The band soldiered on over the years in various incarnations and would record indie albums along the way.

ReduxReview:  I mean, c'mon. This had Led Zeppelin written all over it. I understand that a band or artist doesn't have legal rights to their "sound" (although some recent cases have addressed this a bit), but there is a fine line between influence and imitation and I think Kingdom Come crossed it here. The opening chuggin' rhythm/chords along with the verse are nearly like "Kashmir." So much so that it seemed lawsuit-worthy. Then the chorus and its guitar riff were right out of the Zep playbook, not to mention Wolf's vocals highly recalling Robert Plant's. So the Zeppelin comparison was certainly warranted for this song along with a couple other album tracks including "What Love Can Be," which sounded like "No Quarter, Pt. 2." Yet a good chunk of the album was just straight forward arena rock tracks that were far less Zeppy. So did the band get unfairly tagged as a Zep clone? Maybe a little, but they brought it on themselves, especially with this song. It also didn't help that Wolf apparently said in a Kerrang interview that he had never heard of Led Zeppelin...oooff. Many other bands have been compared to or considered reminiscent of Zeppelin, such as Whitesnake, but in Kingdom Come's case, they sounded just like the band and it would dog them for a long time. However, I will say that I do like this song. Yeah, they are lifting from Zep without question, but I thought they did it quite well. Rip off or homage? You decide.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  When the band was in New York doing the final mix on the album, they got a visit in the studio from A&R rep John Kalodner. He liked "Get It On" quite a bit and asked for a cassette of the track to take with him. The band obliged. Apparently, Kalodner shuffled the track over to a radio station in Detroit and it started to get airplay. The song and Lenny Wolf's vocals reminded people of another famous band that had broken up earlier in the decade, Led Zeppelin. With the band being completely unknown at the time, folks began to think that this was a recording by a reformed Zeppelin. The misnomer sparked demand for both the song and the upcoming album. Of course people soon realized it was not Zeppelin, but the track still took over Rock radio and it spurred the album to go gold. However, many folks were not happy with the band's Zep sound. They considered it more of a rip off rather than an homage. Even former Zep Jimmy Page commented in a Q magazine interview that there is was a difference between an artist influenced by Zep and one that is basically ripping them off and he mentioned Kingdom Come as one of the latter. At some point, people even began to call the band Kingdom Clone. The mini uproar didn't bother Wolf or the band who maintained that their influences were the Beatles and AC/DC. Still, the backlash didn't do the band any favors with their popularity diminishing quickly after the success of their first album.


Monday, April 12, 2021

"Jack the Lad" by 3 Man Island

Song#:  3461
Date:  04/02/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  94
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Dance, House

Pop Bits:  As the 80s began, four English musicians, John Falleti, Mike Whitford, Nigel Swanston and Tim Cox, got together and formed a post-punk band called Airstrip-One. After a couple of indie singles, the band signed with Polydor. They released a pair of singles for the label in 1982, but nothing happened with them. The quartet then changed their sound to be more dance oriented and pushed out a single for Polydor in 1983 under the new band name of Escape from New York. An indie single followed the next year. Still, nothing paid off for the band. Whitford, Swanston, and Cox soldiered on and eventually became 3 Man Island. The trio got signed to Chrysalis Records and their first single was this near-instrumental dance track. It did well on the US Dance chart getting to #10. The action there allowed the single to get on the Pop chart, but only for a brief two-week stay near the bottom. In the UK it only got to #98. A second single, "Funkin' for the UK," was released but it only got to #44 Dance. With that result, it seems that Chrysalis wasn't interested in a full album and the trio was out on their own. They would do one indie single, "Horror House," in 1989 before calling it a day.

ReduxReview:  This was a good floor-filling house track that was well-produced by the trio. It was energetic and catchy. While the song was an excellent fit for the clubs, it wasn't all that great for pop radio. A dance track like this that is mostly instrumental with a few vocal parts needs to include a big hook that makes it stand out on pop radio. This tune didn't necessarily have that. The vocal parts just kind of flow along with the song. There was nothing that provided a definitive hook to keep the song memorable for pop listeners. So I'm not surprised it was a hit at Dance and a blip at Pop. Still, it was a solid house track that kept folks movin'.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After folding 3 Man Island, Nigel Swanston and Tim Cox went on to become a duo called Band of Gypsies. They released a few singles as the 90s began, but they didn't seem to get much attention. However, the tracks were a good calling card for them and the pair moved on to being a songwriting/production team. Among their first clients was Zambian-born singer Rozalla. Her second single, 1991's "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)," written and produced by Swanston and Cox, became a major hit reaching #6 in the UK and #1 US Dance (#37 Pop). A second US Dance #1 would follow along with another Dance Top 10. The duo would work with other singers including Kym Sims, who scored two US Dance Top 10s in the mid-90s. Swanston and Cox would also get credit as writers on another major #1 UK hit. In 1998, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Strictly Ballroom) would record an album of songs that were featured in his films titled Something for Everyone. The tracks were either newly recorded or remixed by Luhrmann. One song he remixed came from his 1996 film Romeo + Juliet. Texas teen Quindon Tarver appeared in a choir in the film and sang a version of Rozalla's "Everybody's Free." Luhrmann took that track, did a remix, and then recited a spoken word piece over the top. Luhrmann used columnist Mary Schmich's 1997 Chicago Tribute essay known as "Wear Sunscreen" for the track. Schmich's piece was a written as a hypothetical commencement speech. Luhrmann would title his song "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)." It was released as a single and in 1989 it would hit #1 on the UK chart. The tune didn't do quite as well in the US where it only got to #45 Pop and #27 AC. Schmich, Swanston, and Cox were credited as composers on the song.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

"Family Man" by Fleetwood Mac

Song#:  3460
Date:  04/02/1988
Debut:  95
Peak:  90
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, the Mac's 1987 album Tango in the Night had spawned four Pop Top 20 hits. The fourth one to chart was the #14 Christine McVie led "Everywhere," which topped the AC chart. Since the band seemed to be on a roll, the label decided to push out this fifth single. It probably wasn't the best idea especially since Lindsey Buckingham, who led this track, had already left the band (see below). Therefore, it made promoting the single very difficult and that showed with the song's month-long stay at the bottom of the Pop chart. It did a little better at AC getting to #23. The tune would wrap up singles from the album, but one other album track, "Isn't It Midnight," would earn enough airplay to reach #14 on the Rock chart.

ReduxReview:  There was absolutely no reason to release this single. I think it was a half-hearted effort by the label to eke out some extra profit from the album and it didn't work. I liked the song as an album track and enjoyed Buckingham's flamenco guitar solo, but it was not a good single candidate. While the previous four singles had somewhat of a Fleetwood Mac feel, this one definitely sounded like a Buckingham solo effort. The production techniques were a natural extension from his solo album Go Insane and no other Mac member helped with the vocals. It was an oddball track that worked fine on the album, but it was forgettable as a single.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The recording of Tango in the Night was tumultuous with Lindsey Buckingham basically turning what was to be a solo album into a Mac project. He was unhappy most of the time and the near lack of participation by Stevie Nicks didn't help. Still, the album was a hit and the band had signed up to do a tour set to start in September of '87. However, Buckingham was not keen on doing the tour and was ready to go back to his solo career. In early August of '87, the band got together to discuss everything. The meeting didn't go well. Accounts of what happened at the meeting vary, but in the end Buckingham left the band. Since Mac had contracts in place for the tour, they had to go out regardless of Buckingham's departure. They hired on two guitarists to help out, Billy Burnette and Rick Vito. Without Buckingham on board, the set list for the tour was altered to omit Mac songs highly associated with Buckingham such as the #5 hit from Tango in the Night "Big Love." The tour was successful and a VHS tape based on two of their shows was assembled and released. Over the years band members would come and go with Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, and Lindsey Buckingham returning and exiting at various times. While the classic Rumours era lineup of the band would get together and tour at certain points (basically, when they got along), they would never record an album together again. The Mac would release three studio albums after Tango in the Night. One without Buckingham, one without Buckingham and Nicks, and one without McVie. However, during one of their full reformations, the band did issue out the 1997 live album The Dance. It would be a big hit reaching #1 and selling over five million copies. As of this posting date, the current iteration of the band included everyone except McVie.