Saturday, May 1, 2021

"Should I Say Yes?" by Nu Shooz

Song#:  3480
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  87
Peak:  41
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Synthpop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  This group fronted by Valerie Day and her husband John Smith broke through in a big way with their second album Poolside. It would be a #27 gold seller that spawned the #3 hit "I Can't Wait" and earned the band a Grammy nod for Best New Artist. The band then had the task of following up that success. They went back into the studio and emerged with their third effort Told U So. This first single got things kicked off. The song did well over at R&B where it peaked at #17, but on the Pop chart it ended up stopping just outside the Top 40 at the dreaded #41. A second single, "Are You Lookin' for Somebody Nu," would miss both of those charts, but get to #2 at Dance. A third single failed to do anything. With those results, the album didn't do nearly as well as their first stopping at #98 Pop/#49 R&B. Their label, Atlantic, had them record a third album, but after its first single tanked, the album got shelved and remains unreleased. It seems the group then lost their contract and the 80s era of Nu Shooz came to an end.

ReduxReview:  With "I Can't Wait" becoming such an iconic 80s hit, this group was going to have a difficult time trying to overcome the sophomore slump. They needed something hooky and instantly memorable to burst through the lingering effects of their first hit. This song wasn't it. The low-key mid-tempo track was a bit of a snoozer. Its soul-leaning groove was somewhat more successful on urban stations, but it did very little at pop to make people set aside "I Can't Wait." The follow-up, "Are You Lookin' for Somebody Nu," was a better tune and did quite well in the clubs, but it still did nothing to excite a pop audience. They needed a much more forceful tune to turn heads and it might have served them well to work with a hit-making composer/producer on at least one song to anchor the album. Instead, they soldiered on themselves and the results were just not as interesting as Poolside. Without securing that much needed second hit, the band's days were numbered.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  After Nu Shooz folded, Valerie Day moved over to being a session vocalist and worked on various projects around her hometown, Portland, Oregon. She would release a couple of albums along the way including a pair of standards collections, one with the Knights of Swing band and the other with local jazz musician Tom Grant. Later in 2010, Day and Smith did a spinoff project of jazz-pop tunes under the name Nu Shooz Orchestra. They would fully revive the Nu Shooz name in 2012 with an album of unreleased tracks from their 80s/90s era title Kung Pao Kitchen. Then in 2016, they would release the first Nu Shooz album of all new material since '88's Told You So titled Bagtown.


Friday, April 30, 2021

"Underneath the Radar" by Underworld

Song#:  3479
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  88
Peak:  74
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Alternative Rock, Synth Rock

Pop Bits:  This UK band first began to develop in 1975 with musicians Karl Hyde and Rick Smith. Initially known as The Screen Gemz, the pair later evolved into the new wave/synthpop quartet Freur. The band got signed to CBS Records in 1983 and released the single "Doot-Doot." It got to #57 in the UK while charting in a few other countries. A debut album by the same name sold a few copies so CBS ordered a second LP. However, after three new singles failed, which resulted in the limited released of their 1986 second album, the band split. Hyde and Smith then formed Underworld with two other musicians. They were signed to Sire Records in the US and recorded a debut album titled Underneath the Radar with producer Rupert Hine. This title-track single was released and it was able to reach the Pop chart for a couple of months. The album would manage to peak at #139. While the band didn't pick up a sizable audience in the US, they did very well in Australia. This single made it to #5 with the album reaching #32. It seems the song was released in the UK, but it did not chart and most likely because of that, the album was not released there.

ReduxReview:  You may be thinking - hey, wasn't this an electro/techno/house band? If so, you are correct. Hyde and Smith would revamp Underworld's sound in the 90s. They would become successful and influential and would even score a major #2 UK hit with 1996's "Born Slippy .NUXX," which became popular after its use in the hit film Trainspotting. However, the group's first two albums were more in the alt rock/synthpop/funk vein. This charging single tried to establish the band, but it didn't fare well in the US. In the long run, that may have been a good thing as who knows if they would have developed into the Underground most folks know today. I like this track, but it took a few listens for me to hook into it. I don't think it was exactly right for US pop radio at the time. It was a little too brash and intense. The album had a couple of bright spots including the urgent "I Need a Doctor," which had shades of earlier 80s synthpop. Overall the LP was nearly there. It had some nice ideas and, of course, excellent production from Rupert Hine. The main problem was that I think it came along a few years too late. It sounded more early 80s than '88.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although the promotion came a few months too late, this song was used in the opening scenes of the fifth season opener of Miami Vice. The show, known for its use/promotion of new music, was in its final season and although the episode had been filmed earlier in the year, it didn't air until November of '88. By that time, Underworld's single and album had long been off the charts and the band was unable to capitalize on the song's appearance.  2) At the beginning of the song, there are beeps heard that sound like Morse code. Well, it is Morse code. When translated it says "think globally, act locally." The phrase is basically a call to take care of the planet and to do so you need to start by doing and promoting things in your own area. The concept seems to have first been brought about by Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes in his 1915 book Cities of Evolution. The actual phrase came about decades later in the 70s, although its true origin is in dispute with several people claiming to have used it first. The phrase has also gone on to have applications in business (as an ad-based strategy) and in mathematics (an off-beat way to describe the structure of an object).


Thursday, April 29, 2021

"Englishman in New York" by Sting

Song#:  3478
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  84
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Jazz-Pop

Pop Bits:  The first two singles from Sting's second album, ...Nothing Like the Sun, performed well with "We'll Be Together" hitting #7 and "Be Still My Beating Heart" making it to #15. Hoping for one more hit to come from the double-LP, this track was selected for the third single. Unfortunately, it didn't get anywhere. It disappeared from the Pop chart after a short month and could only get to #32 Rock and #48 AC. A fourth single, "Fragile," would fail to make the charts. While the album wouldn't generate four Pop Top 20 hits like his debut Dream of the Blue Turtles did, it would still do very well hitting #9 and going double platinum. And like his previous LP, this one would also be nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys.

ReduxReview:  This Kurt Weill-ish song was a terrific album track with an interesting subject (see below). However, this really had zero appeal as a pop single. With it's lite-opera style and jazz interjections, the tune just wasn't a fit for pop radio at the time. I'm guessing that Sting and/or his label thought they would give this song a go as a single because there wasn't much else on the double-LP that had any commercial appeal. A third hit might have been nice to have, but in the long run, the album sold well enough just from the first two singles combined with the Grammy nods. It is hard to judge something like this because it was a poor single choice, but it was a wonderful song. Oddly, in 1990 this song got remixed by Dutch DJ Ben Liebrand, who kept the main parts of the song, but added beats and other sounds/effects to make it more of a dance track. It was released in the UK and ended up doing quite well getting to #15. While the remix did make it a bit more commercial, it still wasn't something that was going to take over the US pop airwaves.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The Englishman who Sting wrote about as being in New York was the real life writer/entertainer/gay icon Quentin Crisp. Sting had met Crisp while filming the 1985 horror flick The Bride. Sting starred in movie with Jennifer Beales and Crisp had a supporting role. Crisp had moved from England to New York a few years earlier. In addition to being the subject of the song, Crisp also made a rare cameo in the video. Crisp, born Denis Pratt, was an unapologetic effeminate character who often shocked the people of London in the 20s and 30s - a time when homosexuality was taboo and could easily get you beaten up or even killed. Over the years he would work as a male prostitute and as a nude model for art classes. In 1968, he assembled his fascinating life stories into the autobiography The Naked Civil Servant. It was somewhat successful, but what pushed Crisp further into the spotlight was when the book got turned into a British TV movie that starred John Hurt. The success of the film prompted Crisp to develop a one-man stage show of his own, which was successful in the UK and the US. He permanently moved to the US in 1981. Later in '86, he had dinner with Sting and told him what homosexual life was like back when he was young. Sting was fascinated by the conversation and afterwards developed "Englishman in New York." Crisp died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 90. 


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

"Hands to Heaven" by Breathe

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3477
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  2
Weeks:  29
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  In 1982, five British teenagers formed a band they called Catch 22. They spent a couple of years honing their skills and trying to figure out their sound. By 1984 they were reduced to a quartet and they settled on a pop style that was tinted with shades of jazz and soul. With their new name, Breathe, they secured a deal with the Virgin Records offshoot Siren and the following year released their first single, "Don't Tell Me Why." It scraped the UK chart at #77. A second single failed to chart, but it seems the label had faith in the band and sent them off with a different producer to finish off a debut album that would be titled All That Jazz. Two singles from the LP were released n '87, but neither charted. In the US, the band already had a deal in place for distribution with A&M Records and the track "Jonah," which failed in the UK, was released as the first single. It got nowhere. Finally, in the fall of '87, "Hands to Heaven" was given a shot as a single in the UK. It clicked and made it to #4. The song was then released in the US in January of '88. It took off first at AC before crossing over to the Pop chart. The song would take its time climbing each chart, but it would eventually peak at #2 on both. On the Pop chart, the song would linger for a lengthy 29 weeks, which helped it finish as the ninth biggest Pop chart song of the year (and the only one in the year-end Top 15 to have not peaked at #1). It took nearly two years, but the band finally secured their first Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  This was just a gorgeous pop ballad with a memorable chorus and lovely, soaring vocals from lead singer Davis Glasper. The song had mass appeal and it was easily the best track on the album. Why the record company didn't see that from day one is a mystery. I certainly wasn't a music business pro, but even I could have told you that this song had #1 potential. It's odd that I haven't heard this song in ages. I think the band has been somewhat forgotten. They had three Top 10s in a row, yet I never hear the tunes anywhere and in all the compilations I have, they are not included. It's a shame as their hits were quite good.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The band's label seemed adamant in trying to break them on radio in the conventional music business way. Industry standards usually dictated that the first single from a new artist, or even a new album, was something upbeat and catchy. A tune that would grab attention from the get-go. While not unheard of, it was slightly unusual for a label to push out a ballad as a debut or lead single. Siren decided to follow the unwritten rule and tried to break Breathe with the uptempo "Don't Tell Me Why." It didn't really work. They tried another one. Nope. As the band's debut LP took shape, the label thought "Hands to Heaven" would be a good single, but for whatever reason they didn't think the band could break through with a ballad and released another upbeat tune, "Jonah," instead. It flopped in both the UK and the US. After four failed singles in the UK, the label finally gave "Hands to Heaven" a try. It would go on to become a major hit. Sticking with convention doesn't always work and in the case of Breathe it could have been a career killer as many labels would have given up after a couple of non-charting singles.. Luckily, Siren (and A&M in the US) didn't give up and they finally got the right single out.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

"Stand Up" by David Lee Roth

Song#:  3476
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  64
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Roth got his second Pop Top 10 with "Just Like Paradise" (#1 Rock), the lead single from his second solo album Skyscraper. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. It would easily make the Rock Top 10 at #5, but it was far less successful over at Pop where it stayed in the bottom half of the chart for a couple of months. Still, the album would get to #6 and go platinum. A third single from the LP, "Damn Good," would reach #2 at Rock, but fail to make the Pop chart. "Stand Up" would be Roth's last Pop chart single as a solo act. His next album, 1991's A Little Ain't Enough, would spawn two Rock Top 10's and go gold. Three more albums would follow over the years, but they would sell far less than his first three efforts.

ReduxReview:  As far as tracks with big Pop chart potential, "Just Like Paradise" was really the only one on Roth's eclectic album to truly fit the bill. It definitely did the job in promoting the disc. After that, there was little to push out for pop radio consumption. This song was probably the best choice as it had fairly solid chorus, but it wasn't nearly as hooky or memorable as "Just Like Paradise" or even his previous album's "Yankee Rose." The Zeppelin-ish "Damn Good" was a terrific track and was perfect for rock radio, but it was just too low-key for pop. Still, sometimes all an established rock artist needed at the time was one good mainstream hit along with a couple of other rock radio friendly tracks in order to get albums sold and in Roth's case, that worked with Skyscraper.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The love/hate relationship between David Lee Roth and his former Van Halen bandmates, in particular Eddie Van Halen, would persist over the years. Roth had been gone from the band since 1985. He kicked of his solo career while VH would continue on with Sammy Hagar taking over for Roth. Hagar would quit or be fired from VH (depending on who you talk to) in 1996. That left the door open for a new lead singer. At the time, the band was assembling a hits compilation. Roth found out and called Eddie to ask about the project. Things went well between them, so Roth went into the studio with the band to record two new tracks for the compilation. Meanwhile, Eddie was still auditioning singers for the lead spot. Mitch Malloy was nearly on board, but after a promo appearance of the "reunited" VH on the MTV Music Video Awards, Malloy balked and walked. At the time, Roth thought he was back in the band, but later found out different. Arguments ensued and Roth took off. VH then hired on Extreme singer Gary Cherone. He stayed for one album and then departed. Hagar returned for a brief period in 2003 recording a couple of track for another hits compilation and going out on tour. Yet once again, disputes resulted in him leaving. By 2007, Roth was once again back in VH and heading out on tour. A new album, A Different Kind of Truth, would be issued out in 2012. It would reach #2 and would spawn VH's final Pop chart single, "Tattoo," which got to #67 (#13 Rock). The LP would be the last studio effort from VH. Eddie Van Halen would die in 2020.


Monday, April 26, 2021

"I'm Still Searching" by Glass Tiger

Song#:  3475
Date:  04/09/1988
Debut:  67
Peak:  31
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This Canadian band's 1986 debut album, The Thin Red Line, would be a gold seller here in the US thanks to a pair of Top 10 hits including the #2 "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)." It led to them receiving a Grammy nod for Best New Artist. As soon as they could, the band went back into the studio for a second time with producer Jim Vallance (of Bryan Adams fame) to record a follow-up. They would emerge with Diamond Sun and this first single introduced the new set. In Canada, the song was an instant hit that reached #2. In the US, it didn't do that well. The tune got to #12 at Rock, but over on the Pop chart it stalled just outside of the Top 30. The title track would provide them with another Top 10 at home, but it failed to chart in the US. With those results, the LP halted at a low #82 in the US. This single would be the band's last to reach a US chart.

ReduxReview:  While this song wasn't co-written by Vallance like their previous two hits, it seems like the band picked up some writing tips from him and Bryan Adams as it kind of sounds like something Adams and Vallance might have composed/produced. The quick-paced rocker was a good song, but wasn't nearly as catchy or memorable as their two US Top 10s. It was a better fit for rock radio and indeed it became their highest peaking song on the Rock chart. For Pop, it just didn't play as well and its Top 40 showing was really the best it was going to do.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1991, Glass Tiger would release their third album, Simple Mission. It would do well for them in Canada getting to #11. It contained four Top 10 hits. Oddly, the last three of those all peaked at #8. Most likely due to the performance of their previous LP, the new set was not released in the US. After a hits collection came out in '93, the band would go on hiatus. It would turn into an extended ten-year break. Finally in 2003, the band got back together and started touring again. However, they would not release any new recordings until 2018. For their fourth album 31, the band re-recorded several of their hits to celebrate their thirty-plus years of success. An EP of new material titled 33 would come out the following year. A holiday album was then released in 2020. With the exception of their drummer, the band had maintained the same lineup since their formation in 1983.


Sunday, April 25, 2021

"We All Sleep Alone" by Cher

Song#:  3474
Date:  04/09/1988
Debut:  84
Peak:  14
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  After winning an Oscar, Cher returned to music and made quite the comeback with the #10 hit "I Found Someone." It was the lead single from her self-titled album and was her first Top 10 hit since 1979. To follow it up, this next track was selected. It wouldn't do quite as well, but it still managed to crack the Pop Top 20 while getting to #11 at AC. It would mark the first time since 1971 that Cher got a pair of Pop Top 20s from one album. Just about a month after this song debuted on the chart, the Cher album would reach its peak of #32. It would become her first gold album since 1979 and eventually would go platinum.

ReduxReview:  This song was written and produced by Desmond Child, Jon Bon Jovi, and Richie Sambora. It came at a time when Bon Jovi and Sambora were trying to branch out as writers for hire. In addition, the whole Bon Jovi crew played on the track. It gave the tune some late-80s rock radio cred, but it wasn't one that I'd say sounded like Bon Jovi, and that was probably a good thing. I doubt anyone really wanted to hear Cher singing lead on "Livin' on a Prayer." This song seemed to be more custom fitted to what Cher was doing with her album and I think it worked well. She got to rock out a bit without going overboard and the song itself was well-arranged and produced. It wasn't quite as memorable as "I Found Someone," but it performed well as a follow-up.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The videos for this song and for "I Found Someone" featured Cher with Rob Camilletti, her boyfriend at the time. Much was made of the relationship due to the 18-year age gap between the two and the fact that he was a struggling actor working at a bagel shop when they met in 1986. He would be her date to the Oscars when she won Best Actress for Moonstruck. The pair seemed happy and Cher just brushed aside all the tabloid fodder about them. His first professional job was doing the "I Found Someone" video. From there his newfound fame and connections got him some acting jobs including spots on TV shows like Roseanne and NYPD Blue. However, after an incident Camilletti had with the paparazzi in '88 landed him in jail, things took a turn. They would break up in '89. Cher would continue with her career, but Camilletti decided that acting and showbiz wasn't for him and he ended up getting his pilots license. He eventually got a job piloting private planes for celebrities and other rich folks - even one time for Cher. After the breakup, the pair had remained friends.