Saturday, May 8, 2021

"Everything Your Heart Desires" by Daryl Hall John Oates

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3487
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  46
Peak:  3
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Between 1981 and 1985, Hall & Oates had an incredible run of singles. Of the thirteen songs that made the Pop chart during that time period, all but one would go Top 10. Of those, five would hit #1. That success combined with two other Top 10s and one #1 from their 70s era made them the most successful duo in rock history. Most all of those hits were for RCA Records. In addition to that, Daryl Hall recorded a solo album for RCA in 1986 that yielded a Top 10 hit. However, by 1987 the duo's contractual obligations with RCA were met and they were ready to start a new chapter in their career. They signed on with Arista Records, took the "&" out of their moniker, and recorded their thirteenth studio album Ooh Yeah! It had been nearly four years since their last studio LP, the #5 double-platinum Big Bam Boom, and in that time pop music had changed. Could the duo still secure hits following their extended break? The answer was a resounding...kinda. This first single would get them back in circulation and it would do well making the Pop Top 10 while peaking at #2 AC and #13 R&B. However, the hit didn't do much to promote the album. It would stall at #24 to become their lowest peaking album since 1979. While it would later be certified platinum, that was a drop from the multi-platinum levels of their previous two efforts. Changes in music and their four-year hiatus seemed to have taken a toll and in the long run, this single would prove to be their final one to reach the Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  On the duo's return, it did sound as if they were taking some notes about what was happening on the chart, but mainly just production-wise. The track had all the bells and whistles of other late 80s hits. It had a dense, layered sound with big drums, tinkling keyboards, synth effects and echo-laden vocals. Yet the song at the actual heart of it all was still very Hall & Oatesy. Their trademarked blue-eyes soul was still apparent through the din of the production. It was a good tune, but I would not rank it among their best efforts. The chorus is slick and memorable, but the verse doesn't do much for the song. I found it lacking a clear melody. It just sounded like Daryl Hall was riffing through it over a single chord. While the production was right for the time period, I think it overpowered the actual song. Compare this to the beautiful simplicity of "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" and you'll hear what I mean. Of course, that song was far, far better than this one, but you get the point. It was just overdone. At least they were able to grab one more Top 10.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This hit helped expand Hall & Oates' lead as the biggest charting duo of all-time. They claimed that titled back in 1984 when they surpassed The Everly Brothers. Don and Phil Everly amassed eleven Top 10 hits and four #1s. The third biggest duo was the Carpenters who earned nine Top 10s and three #1s. They should have had more #1s, but five of their singles stopped at the #2 position. Simon & Garfunkel and The Righteous Brothers would round out the Top 5. (Side Note:  The Carpenters' five #2s is not a record. At this point in time Madonna holds the record with six #2s. Both acts were fortunate to grab #1 hits as well. However, Creedence Clearwater Revival holds the record of having the most #2 hits without ever getting to #1. Five of their songs peaked at #2.)


Friday, May 7, 2021

"Together Forever" by Rick Astley

#1 Alert
Song#:  3486
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  62
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  Astley's debut single, "Never Gonna Give You Up," rocketed to #1 in many countries including his UK homeland and the US. The hit would send his album Whenever You Need Somebody to its peak position of #10. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. It would repeat the result of his previous single and top of the Pop chart giving Astley two consecutive #1s. It would also get to #1 Dance and #2 AC. The hit would help sell more albums and by May of '88 it would become a platinum seller. In the UK, the single would reach #2.

ReduxReview:  If the first one work so well, why not try it again? The Stock Aitken Waterman songwriting/production team sort of used the same floor plan from "Never Gonna Give You Up" and just moved the furniture around a bit. While the two songs are similar, this one is not an exact copy and has its own merits. The chorus is undeniably catchy and there is a blue-eyed soul feeling to the bridge that adds a little meat to the tune's dance-pop bones. It was and still is an earworm just waiting to invade your brain. It doesn't always work to release two singles in a row that sound similar, but for Astley and the SAW team, they were able to make it work.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The rollout of singles from Astley's debut album were quite different between the UK and the US. While the first single in each country was "Never Gonna Give You Up," in the UK the follow-up single, which came out in the fall of '87, was the title track "Whenever You Need Somebody." It got to #3. Then in November of '87, the third single was a double a-sided release with "When I Fall in Love" and "My Arms Keep Missing You." It peaked at #2. None of these songs would be issued out as singles in the US. "Together Forever" would then be released in both the UK and US. Later in the US, there would be a third single "It Would Take a Strong Strong Man," which would crack the Top 10. That song would not be released in the UK.


Thursday, May 6, 2021

"When We Kiss" by Bardeux

Song#:  3485
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  67
Peak:  36
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This female duo that was assembled and produced by Jon St. James (of Stacey Q fame) got their first Pop chart entry with "Magic Carpet Ride." The single would make it to #81. It was taken from the duo's debut album Bold As Love as was this next single. Bardeux had been trying to break through with dance-pop tracks, but it would be this rap-style ballad that would take them into the Pop Top 40. Co-written by St. James and duo member Acacia (Stacy Smith), the understated track got Bardeux noticed and it should have helped their next single, the freestyle-ish "Bleeding Heart," but the song failed to reach any chart. "When We Kiss" would help their album reach #104.

ReduxReview:  This slick track had to have been modeled off of LL Cool J's hit rap ballad "I Need Love." It was not a copy, but was definitely in the same vein and I think St. James may have set out to do a female version of LL's track. While LL's was definitely a rap track, Bardeux's song was more like a synthpop track performed as a spoken word piece. It was actually far better than any of the other tracks on the album, which mainly consisted of bland, average dance-pop. At least this song was interesting and was something that stood out on the radio. I liked the slinky, sensual groove along with the breathy monotone delivery from both members of Bardeux. It was just too bad that they didn't have anything else as captivating to offer.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In addition to Stacey Q and Bardeux, songwriter/producer Jon St. James would help another female artist grab a Pop chart entry. St. James' F1Music studio was located near Sonora High School in La Habra, California. Kara Wethington was a student at the school and she would occasionally pass by the studio and see the gold record awards on the wall St. James had earned. One day she got enough courage to walk in and she ended up meeting St. James. She told him she was a singer and of course the reaction of St. James and others around was "yeah, okay, sure." However, instead of just totally dismissing her, St. James told her to return the next day and they would hear her sing. She did and to St. James' surprise, she could sing. He had been working on recording a track that was to be for a female singer, so he had Wethington do the vocals. That song, "DJ Girl," got her signed to Thump Records and they issued it out as a single under Wethington's new stage name, Katalina. It wasn't a major hit, but it did get on the Pop chart at #86. A debut album titled Sonic Groove would follow. Not much happened after that first single, but she continued to sing; just not dance-pop. Under her real name, Wethington began working as a vocalist with punk bands. She sang with The Vandals and with The Bouncing Souls. Along the way she also acted in a couple of TV shows and films. These days she works as a publicist.


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

"Circle in the Sand" by Belinda Carlisle

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3484
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  68
Peak:  7
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Carlisle's second post-Go-Go's album Heaven on Earth was certified platinum in January of '88. It got there thanks to a pair of hits including the #2 "I Get Weak." To keep sales going, this third single was released from the LP. It would end up being her third consecutive Pop Top 10 (her fourth overall). The song also did well over at AC where it was also her third consecutive, and highest charting, Top 10 (#5). Unfortunately, this single would be Carlisle's last one to make the Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  This atmospheric and mysterious song was an interesting choice for a single. The ballad was a nice change of pace after two bombastic hits, but I wasn't sure if it would fully catch on. It ended up doing quite well and secured Carlisle with a fourth Top 10. I think it gets overlooked today in favor of the other two hits, but it was a good track that got enhanced by an excellent arrangement and terrific production.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song as well as Carlisle's #1 "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" were written by Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley, and produced by Nowels. It was via Carlisle's album that the Nowels/Shipley writing partnership began. Nowels was gaining ground as a songwriter and producer having success with Stevie Nicks (1985's Rock a Little). Shipley had been singing around New York and released three albums, one indie and two for major labels, that did little for her career as a solo recording artist. When Nowels was hired on to produce Carlisle's second album, he needed hit songs. Shipley was a friend of his and he called her up to invite her out to L.A. to see if they could come up with something for Carlisle. Their first effort was "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" followed by "Circle in the Sand." The hits boosted both of their careers. They would continue to write music together for Carlisle and a few other artists. Nowels would go on to write and produce for major artists like Madonna, k.d. lang, Jewel, Santana, Keith Urban, Weezer, Cee-Lo Green, and many others. Beginning in 2011, Nowels began working with singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey. While he would contribute songwriting and production for a few tracks on several of her albums, the pair mostly wrote and produced two of her LPs, 2015's Honeymoon and 2017's Lust for Life. In 2013, a remix of one of their first collaborations, "Summertime Sadness" (originally from her 2012 album Born to Die), would become Del Rey's biggest hit to-date reaching #6 on the Pop chart.


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

"Da'Butt" by E.U.

Song#:  3483
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  71
Peak:  35
Weeks:  12
Genre: R&B, Funk, Go-Go, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  When writer/director Spike Lee was developing his second film, the musical-comedy School Daze, he wanted a specific song created for a party scene. Lee had recently become familiar with go-go music, an offshoot of funk that was popular around the metro Washington D.C. area. In particular, he like a band called E.U. (aka Experience Unlimited). Lee wanted a go-go style party/dance tune written for the movie and he came up with the title "Da'Butt." Out of the blue, Lee called up composer/producer/musician Marcus Miller and asked him to write a danced-based song called "Da'Butt." Miller accepted the challenge and began to work on the song with Mark Stevens, the brother of Chaka Khan. Lee ended up liking the demo of the song and brought Miller and E.U. to New York to record the track. Lee wanted a party vibe on the track, so he also brought along some of the actors from School Daze. E.U. worked on giving the song a go-go feel, which also included shout outs, a staple of the genre. Lee was thrilled with the final results and declared it a hit. For the scene that featured the song, Lee had E.U. appear as the party band. The film and the song were released February of '88. The tune first caught on at R&B and it would eventually reach #1. It then crossed over to the Pop chart where it would break into the Top 40. It also got to #23 at Dance. Out of nowhere, E.U. found themselves in the national spotlight with a major hit. The soundtrack album would get to #14 R&B/#81 Pop. Lee's film would also do fairly well at the box office. The song would also earn the band a Grammy nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  The thing that I remember about this song was that certain, say, older folks and conservatives were upset by it because their unhip ears heard the lyrics as "do it in the butt" and they thought it was all about anal sex. Among those were the owners of the skating rink where I used to DJ. I wasn't allowed to play the song. Even after explaining what it really was, they still didn't want a song about shaking your butt played during regular sessions with kids around. I think I got to play it at the adult sessions (18+ only), but they were still not keen on it. How can this song be interpreted as anything but pure fun. The party vibe combined with hooks galore made the song a blast. Add to that the butt-shaking dance move and it became a party song for the ages.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) E.U., known earlier in their career as Experience Unlimited, first formed in 1974 in Washington, D.C. Initially they leaned towards a funk-rock sound, but then gravitated to go-go music, a style that was popular in the region. Chuck Brown would be the genre's most popular artist (later known as the Godfather of Go-Go) and he brought the style to the masses with the 1978 #1 R&B/#34 Pop hit "Bustin' Loose." A year prior to that single, Experience Unlimited released their first album titled Free Yourself on the local indie label Black Fire. It didn't do much to push their career further, but the band kept on playing and continued to be popular in the region. The band had personnel changes over the years, but bandleader Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliot remained a constant. They recorded a few songs along the way including, oddly, a track called "Rock Yuh Butt." They might have just remained a popular fixture on the local Washington go-go scene, but then Spike Lee came calling and their career took an unexpected detour.  2) Just a few days prior to the writing of this post, "Da'Butt" experienced a sort of revival. At the 2021 Academy Awards ceremony, supporting actress nominee Glenn Close took part in a little trivia bit during the show. She was asked to identify a song and state whether it won an Oscar, was nominated, or was not nominated. The song was "Da'Butt" and Close ID'd it, stated a few facts about it, and said it was never nominated, which was correct. Her answer surprised the audience, but then she floored everyone when after the trivia host asked if she could actually do the dance, the 74-year-old got up and performed Da'Butt. It turned into one of the biggest highlights of the telecast. The question then later came, was it all a setup? Slightly. Close had been tipped off that she would be asked about the song "Da'Butt," but nothing was scripted or rehearsed. Unbeknownst to the producers, Close prepared by researching the song. So while it was expected that she would know the answer to the trivia question, her knowledge-based response came as a surprise. Then the real shock came when in an unscripted moment she was asked about the dance and she got up and did it. Reactions to the bit from Spike Lee, Marcus Miller, and Sugar Bear were all positive and appreciative. Close didn't win the Oscar that night, but she created a buzz-worthy moment that nearly overshadowed all the winners.


Monday, May 3, 2021

"Make It Real" by The Jets

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3482
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  79
Peak:  4
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The family band's second album Magic would be a gold seller thanks to a pair of Top 10 hits and another Top 20 entry. With their last single, "Rocket 2 You," hitting #6, it was logical for the label to push out a fourth single from the LP. This ballad was selected and it ended up being the right choice. The song became their fifth Top 10 at Pop while becoming their second #1 at AC. It also got to #24 at R&B. Unfortunately, it would end up being the band's final Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  For a song that was basically tossed together (see below), the results were pretty darn good. I'm guessing it must have been a surprise to the band and their team that the song turned into a hit. I also think that the writers/producers looked to the band's previous hit "You Got It All" for inspiration. While it wasn't an exact copy of the song, the tune did sort of play like a musical fraternal twin. That seemed to be fine with pop and AC listeners. I didn't necessarily mind the song. It was a cute, fluffy tune. The musical equivalent of a stuffed animal. It was just that I had heard it before and better as "You Got It All."

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In the recording studio, it was sometimes best to let the professionals play on the track instead of the actual band members. Lack of time, money, and experience would occasionally push producers to quickly develop tracks with other musicians and just leave the vocals to the artist. Although The Jets were a band, several tracks on their first two albums were enhanced or performed by hired hands or even by the producers themselves. Then the family was brought in to do lead and background vocals. In the case of "Make It Real," only one of The Jets performed on the track. The lead vocals were done by Elizabeth Wolfgramm. She had also provided the lead vocal on the band's #3 hit "You Got It All." Apparently, the tune was a last minute add to the album and was written, produced, and recorded rather quickly. After the instrumental track was recorded, the vocal part was needed. According to band member Moana Wolfgramm, the producers caught up with the band on tour and after one of their shows got Elizabeth into a studio to record the vocal part. The little add-on ballad with the sole sibling singing turned into a #4 Pop/#1 AC hit.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

"Tall Cool One" by Robert Plant

Song#:  3481
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  25
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Plant's third solo album, Shaken 'n' Stirred, wasn't quite as well-received as his first two. It would miss the Top 10 (#20) and only go gold, a drop from the platinum sales of his previous efforts. The LP was a bit experimental (i.e., less commercial) and it took Plant further away from the sound of his previous band Led Zeppelin. For his fourth album, Plant decided to move back to his rock and blues roots while updating it with the sounds and production techniques of the 80s. Now and Zen would be released and the first track to get some attention was "Heaven Knows," which took off and got to #1 at Rock. Hot on its heels, "Tall Cool One" was issued out as a single. It would also top the Rock chart. The attention there helped the song cross over to the Pop chart where it slowly caught on and finally peaked at #25. It would end up being Plant's second biggest solo hit on that chart after the #20 "Big Log" (1983). The pair of Rock #1s certainly brought attention to the album and it would return Plant to the Top 10 at #6. Eventually, it would end up becoming Plant's biggest selling solo album going triple-platinum.

ReduxReview:  Plant spent three albums trying to shed the Led monkey off his back and in some ways succeeded. However, much of it seemed so serious. It was like Plant didn't truly allow himself to have any fun. That changed with this track. He took the lyrics "lighten up baby" to heart and created a fun, rockin' track that merged his current solo career with his legendary past. It just sounded like Plant was at a place where he was enjoying himself and not forcing the songs out. The rock radio-ready "Heaven Knows," which should have been a Pop Top 40 hit, still had a joyous, uplifting sound even though it was a darker track. The whole album was a more focused affair and I enjoyed it. Now and Zen still remains the only Robert Plant solo album I've ever owned. I quickly bought into it after hearing "Heaven Knows" and this single. "Tall Cool One" was such a blast of fresh air coming from Plant. The charging rock-blues of the tune combined with Plant's voice, modern production, and clever Zep references was certainly "built to please." It really should have gone Top 10.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  For a couple of tracks on the album, including "Tall Cool One," Plant brought in his old Led Zeppelin bandmate Jimmy Page to play guitar. Page's appearance wasn't the only Zep connection in the song. It also included samples from several Led Zeppelin tracks. Snippets of "Black Dog," "Dazed and Confused," "Whole Lotta Love," "The Ocean," and "Custard Pie" could be heard. Plant's lyrics also included references to a couple of Zep songs as well. Apparently, the sampling idea came about due to another popular act at the time, the Beastie Boys. Having been fans of Led Zeppelin, the Beastie Boys used samples of a few Zep songs on tracks from their #1 debut album Licensed to Ill. They did it at a time when the legalities surrounding sampling were blurry and artists were still taking chances in not getting the samples cleared. The trio didn't seek permission to use the Zep snippets and of course that didn't necessarily sit well with Plant. However, Plant decided that legal action wasn't in his best interest and let the Boys off the hook. Instead, he thought that he may get a bit of revenge by incorporating samples from Beastie Boys tracks into his own songs. The problem was that the BB tracks proved to be lower in quality and didn't fit well with Plant's high tech production. Instead, Plant then decided to cop samples from his own band for "Tall Cool One." There would be no legal issues with doing that as he was the co-composer of the tunes and he was still on Zep's label Atlantic. The use of the samples made the song stand out and the nostalgia factor helped push the song to #1 at Rock.