Saturday, May 22, 2021

"Heart of Mine" by Boz Scaggs

Song#:  3501
Date:  04/30/1988
Debut:  83
Peak:  35
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The decade started out well for Boz Scaggs. From 1980 through to early '81, he put four songs in the Pop Top 20 and earned two platinum albums, one a studio effort, the other a compilation. He was on a roll, but then it all came to a halt. It seems that Scaggs wasn't all that happy with all the attention, fame, and demands that came along with having hits and it affected his inner need to do music. He was just over it all and so decided to take a break. Well, that break turned into a near eight-year hiatus. When he finally decided to record again, Scaggs was still signed with Columbia Records. He would complete his tenth album, Other Roads, and this first single would be issued out ahead of its release. The pop music world had changed so much since '81 and sensing that his soft rock sounds may not fit in with the day's hits, Scaggs geared his LP to the AC market and his previous fans. It seemed to work out well with this song reaching #3 on the AC chart. Surprisingly, the tune did fairly well at Pop cracking the Top 40. It would end up being his last single to reach the Pop chart. The album would do respectably well reaching #47, however it failed to go gold.

ReduxReview:  Although this song's production gives it a nice late-80s AC sound, the tune itself still sounds like something from earlier in the decade. It was like Scaggs simply just picked up where he left off as if it were 1982. While Scaggs co-wrote the majority of the LP's tracks, this one was written by Bobby Caldwell ("What You Won't Do for Love," 1978, #9), Jason Scheff (Chicago's lead singer after Peter Cetera left), and Dennis Matkosky. It was right up Scaggs' alley and it seemed to make his old fans and new AC listeners quite happy. For me, it kind of sounded like it should have been a song from a Disney animated flick or the theme from a rom-com. It was a pretty tune, but for the time period it did seem a little old-fashioned. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just that it wasn't going to be a big hit on pop radio, which wasn't Scaggs' target audience anyway. I'm actually surprised it made the Top 40. I was never a fan of Scaggs' music and this one didn't do anything to change my mind.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After Other Roads, Scaggs wouldn't record another album for six years. Following the release of 1994's Some Change, Scaggs would regularly record albums every 2-3 years. All but one would reach the Album chart with his 2013 LP Memphis performing the best at #17.  2) While his Other Roads album was riding the chart, Scaggs ventured into another area of the music business. He along with his business partners would renovate a San Francisco restaurant into a night club called Slim's. It would open in September of '88. The music venue quickly became iconic in the city and many artists from various genres would perform there. After more than 30 years of business, Slim's would close down in March of 2020 when the COVID pandemic forced a lockdown. However, the forced shutdown didn't necessarily cause the closure of Slim's. While it certainly forced an abrupt end to the club, apparently plans had already been developed earlier in 2019 for closing Slim's. The pandemic just basically rushed the timeline. Although Slim's is gone, Scaggs still operates another SF venue. At some point in time, he and his partners took over the Great American Music Hall located in the city's Tenderloin district. The Hall is one of the oldest clubs in the city. It opened in 1907 after the great earthquake. At one point it was almost demolished, but was then completely refurbished in 1972 and it has been a popular music venue since. Reportedly after its closure, the staff from Slim's had the opportunity to switch over and work at the Hall.


Friday, May 21, 2021

"Blue Monday 1988" by New Order

Song#:  3500
Date:  04/30/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  68
Weeks:  10
Genre:  New Wave, Alternative Dance

Pop Bits:  New Order had been popular throughout the 80s in their UK homeland where they scored two Top 10 hits and four Top 10 LPs. They were pretty much a cult band in the US, but that began to change when their 1987 compilation Substance made it to #36 and spawned the #3 Dance/#32 Pop single "True Faith." The album would eventually be a platinum seller. With the sudden burst of popularity and a new studio album not scheduled until early '89, the band's American label, Qwest, thought it would be an opportune moment to revisit their 1983 #9 UK hit "Blue Monday." Over time, that song had become the biggest selling 12" single in the UK and was the band's signature song. When first released in the US in 1983, the tune was a hit in the clubs and got to #5 on the Dance chart, but it didn't make the Pop chart (probably because it was only issued out as a 12" single and the song was over seven minutes long - not optimal for radio airplay). The head of Qwest, Quincy Jones, who had signed the band for the US market a year or so after "Blue Monday" first came out, thought that a new remixed version of the song could help to maintain the band's momentum. Jones would oversee the project and have John Potoker do the remix. When released, it became an immediate hit in the clubs and reached #1 on the Dance chart (in combination with another song "Touched By the Hand of God"). The song then crossed over to the Pop chart, but it didn't make as big of an impact as perhaps Jones had hoped. It stayed in the bottom third of the chart. The new remix was also released in other countries including the UK where it peaked higher than the original version at #3.

ReduxReview:  I do remember "Blue Monday" from its original version. Its atmospheric, mechanical, synthpop/new wave sound played well to various crowds from college kids to clubbers. I liked the track and found it really interesting, but didn't fully hook into it because it simply of grooved along without a chorus. It just featured a monotone-ish melody/verse. The new remix from Jones made the song more concise (therefore airplay worthy) and added various flourishes that gave it a more current feel. I don't think any harm was done to the song. In fact, the remix provided a more finished feel that had direction and it even had some urgency by the end. Overall, it was a solid remix. However, it still wasn't the catchiest track. At a time when pop radio demanded a memorable hook that grabbed listeners, this song just couldn't compete. Despite never being able to be a Pop hit in the US, the track has certainly remained popular.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The b-side to "Blue Monday 1988" was the song "Touched By the Hand of God." It was initially written for and used in the 1987 film Salvation! The song appeared on the soundtrack album along with four other New Order tracks. The indie film, directed by Beth B of NYC's No Wave scene, was a black comedy/parody of televangelism, which was a hot topic at the time due to the falls of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. Among the cast was Exene Cervenka of the L.A. punk band X and Viggo Mortensen, who was making his second film appearance. The movie came and went while the soundtrack turned into a sort of curiosity in New Order's catalog. "Touched By the Hand of God" was issued as a single in the UK in 1987 and it reached #20.


Thursday, May 20, 2021

"Love Changes Everything" by Honeymoon Suite

Song#:  3499
Date:  04/30/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  91
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Canadian band's second album, 1985's The Big Prize, would get to #61 and stay on the chart for a lengthy thirty-five weeks mainly thanks to the #34 Pop/#8 Rock track "Feel It Again." It would end up being their biggest hit in the US. After a supporting tour, the band got back into the studio to record their third LP. Unfortunately, they experienced a delay when lead singer Johnnie Dee was struck by a car at the Los Angeles airport. His leg was injured and it required surgery along with a recovery period. The band was finally able to finish the album at the beginning of '88 and as spring approached they released this first single from Racing After Midnight. In Canada, the song would become the band's first Top 10 hit reaching #9. In the US, the track got to #13 at Rock, but it couldn't do much of anything on the Pop chart dropping off after two short weeks. Further singles failed to reach either chart and that left the album stalling at #86. A hits compilation would come out in '89 followed by a new studio album in '91. Neither made an impact in the US. The band would continue to perform over the years and experience personnel changes. They wouldn't issue out another album until 2002.

ReduxReview:  After the crunchy, arena rock of "Feel It Again," this track sounded so tame in comparison. Bruce Fairbairn produced "Feel It Again" and gave it a big 80s sound with lots of depth and huge drums. It helped that the song was good to begin with, but Fairbairn's production took it to the next level. While "Love Changes Everything" wasn't quite as good of a song, what dimmed it further was the tepid production by Ted Templeman. It sounded flat and one dimensional. It reminded me of an early Bon Jovi or Loverboy track - something '84-ish, not late 80s. The band had something good going with Fairbairn and I'm not sure why they didn't stick with him. Templeman's clean production just didn't fit the band and it didn't help to advance them at all.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  For their third album, the band was hooked up with producer Ted Templeman (Van Halen, Doobie Brothers). He worked out of L.A. so the band flew there to record tracks. That's when Johnnie Dee got injured at the airport. With studio time booked and the need to get something done, the rest of the band went into the studio with Templeman. To help things along, Templeman brought in an old friend to lend a hand. Former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald dropped by the studio to work with the band. He would end up co-writing and singing background vocals on the track "Long Way Back." It would be included on the album, but would not be released as a single. With that push, the band soldiered on and as soon as he could Johnnie Dee would join them to finish the sessions. In Canada, the album would reach #6 and go double-platinum.


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

"Most of All" by Jody Watley

Song#:  3498
Date:  04/30/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  60
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance-Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Jody Watley's self-titled debut album had peaked at #10, gone platinum, and spawned three Top 10 hits including the #2 "Looking for a New Love." Watley had also collected up a Grammy for Best New Artist. Following the #10 success of the LP's fourth single, "Some Kind of Lover," it was decided that this fifth single would be issued out. While it did well at Dance (#8) and R&B (#11), it wasn't as successful on the Pop chart where it peaked in the bottom half. It didn't do much to boost album sales, but it didn't really matter. Watley had certainly made a splash and expectations were high for her next LP, which would arrive in the spring of '89.

ReduxReview:  After getting a third Top 10 and the Grammy win, I think the label was scrambling to get another single out from the LP, which had been exhausted of potential crossover hits. Really, who knew that the album would do so well and that a fifth single would be necessary? They chose this track which had a distinct Madonna-ish smell to it thanks to its writers Gardner Cole and Patrick Leonard. The pair had worked on Madonna's True Blue LP and this song nearly sounded like a leftover from those sessions. The song was just okay. The fluffy tune paled in comparison to her previous hits. It worked as an album track, but there was no reason to push this out as a single. It played surprisingly well at Dance and R&B, but it wasn't nearly strong enough to make it at Pop.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Jody Watley was associated with an R&B star long before her days in the spotlight. Her godfather was legendary singer Jackie Wilson. Watley's father was the Rev. John E. Watley, Jr. who presided over the Miracle Temple church in Chicago. He was also a gospel music radio personality on a local station. Occasionally, music stars and other celebs would attend services at the church and at one point Jackie Wilson showed up. Given the nickname "Mr. Excitement" due to his energetic shows, Wilson would have a string of hits throughout the late 50s and 60s. He would collect up six Pop Top 10s and twelve R&B Top 10s including six #1s. Among his most popular songs was 1958's "Lonely Teardrops" (#1 R&B/#7 Pop) and 1967's "(You're Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" (#1 R&B/#6 Pop). Wilson and the Rev. Watley quickly became close friends. So much so that a young Jody Watley would call Wilson "Uncle Jackie." Wilson was considered part of the family and would later be dubbed as Jody's godfather. An eight-year-old Jody ended up on stage for the first time thanks to Wilson. After the family made a move to North Carolina, they attended one of Wilson's performances and at one point he brought Jody up on stage. Together they performed "Baby Workout," a 1963 #1 R&B/#5 hit for Wilson. It wasn't long before the young Watley got the bug to be a performer. Ten years later, she would have her first chart single with Shalamar ("Uptown Festival (Part 1)," 1977, #10 R&B/#25 Pop). Wilson would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 three years after he passed away. In 2019, he would receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Jody Watley would be the guest of honor at the ceremony.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

"Wild Wild West" by Kool Moe Dee

Song#:  3497
Date:  04/30/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  62
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rap, Hip-Hop

Pop Bits:  Kool Moe Dee's 1986 self-titled debut album sold well getting to #23 R&B and #83 Pop. It was supported by the popular track "Go See the Doctor," which got on the Pop chart at #89. By the end of '87, his second album, How Ya Like Me Now, was ready for release. The title track would be issued out as the first single and it became his first song to make the R&B chart reaching #22. For a follow-up, this next track was released. It did even better becoming Kool Moe Dee's first R&B Top 10 at #4. The tune's popularity spread over to the Pop chart where it spent nearly three months. It would also earn Kool Moe Dee a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance. The hit helped the album sell and it would get to #4 R&B and #35 Pop. By November of '88, it would turn platinum. His third album, 1989's Knowledge Is King, would feature three R&B Top 20 hits including the #3 "They Want Money." None of the singles would reach the Pop chart. The LP would get to #2 R&B/#25 Pop and go gold. Kool Moe Dee would record two more solo albums that were far less successful before going on to other projects.

ReduxReview:  It only took about 15 seconds to get vested in this track. The title hook, the Good/Bad/Ugly theme whistle, the beat, the sound effects, and the big slaps/snare quickly grabbed your attention even before Kool Moe Dee enters. He then takes control and drives the song even further. It was another winner for the rapper and it should have easily made the Pop Top 40. All I can think of as to why it didn't was reluctance from pop radio to play rap. I'm also guessing that the video didn't get much support from MTV. The tune got a little bit of attention later on via a shitty movie and its awful theme song (see below), but hopefully folks went back to discover the far, far better original "Wild Wild West" (both the Kool Moe Dee track and the 60s TV show).

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In 1999, Will Smith would star in the big budget Western/action/comedy film Wild Wild West with Kevin Kline. It was loosely based on the popular 1960s TV show. For the film, Smith recorded a theme song that was also titled "Wild Wild West." The track would use samples from Kool Moe Dee's "Wild Wild West" and Stevie Wonder's 1976 #1 hit "I Wish." Kool Moe Dee would also be a guest on the song along with Dru Hill. The single, which appeared on the associated soundtrack album and was the lead single from Smith's second album Willennium, reached #1 Pop and #3 R&B. It would go gold. It was Smith's third and final #1 on the Pop chart. The soundtrack would reach #4 Pop/#4 R&B and go double-platinum. Smith's album would get to #5 Pop/#8 R&B and also go double-platinum. The film was highly panned by critics and while it did make over $113 million at the box office, that was far below expectations especially since it cost over $170 million to make. An additional $100 million from overseas showings helped the film barely break even. The movie was nominated for eight Golden Raspberry Awards. It would win five including Worst Picture and Worst Song for Smith's title track. Someone else who wasn't a fan of the movie was the TV show's star Robert Conrad. To put a point on his disapproval, Conrad showed up at the Golden Raspberry ceremony to accept three of the awards on behalf of the film.


Monday, May 17, 2021

"Broken Land" by The Adventures

Song#:  3496
Date:  04/30/1988
Debut:  97
Peak:  95
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This Irish band was formed by Terry Sharpe and Pat Gribben in 1984. They filled out the group with four other musicians including Gribben's wife, Eileen. They began playing shows early in '84 and it didn't take long for them to get noticed by a label. Chrysalis Records came calling and signed the band. They released two singles both of which scraped the lower rungs of the UK chart. It was enough for Chrysalis to fund an album and their debut, Theodore and Friends, was released in the spring of '85. A third single nearly cracked the Top 50, but it seemed the band wasn't making the inroads that they or the label thought they would. The band then moved over to Elektra and released this single. It took off and got to #20 in the UK. The band then quickly got in the studio to record their second album The Sea of Love. With the song doing well in the UK, a deal for US distribution was struck and the single released. It made the Rock Top 40 at #39 and was able to cross over to the Pop chart for a few minor weeks near the bottom. The album then scraped the US chart at #144. It did better in the UK reaching #30 thanks to a second single, "Drowning in the Sea of Love," that got to #44. A third album, 1990's Trading Secrets with the Moon, didn't fare as well and the band lost their Elektra contract. They got one more opportunity with Polydor Records for 1993's Lions and Tigers and Bears, but it went nowhere and the band proceeded to break up.

ReduxReview:  The chorus of this song kind of reminds me of an Irish version of Nick Heywood's "Wouldn't It Be Good" while the verse has a Tears for Fears kind of sound. It was atmospheric Euro-rock that was a bit dark and mysterious. I like the song, the singer, and the big, echo-laden production, but it is nothing that I would have pegged for single release here in the US. It was a better fit for the UK and indeed it made the Top 20. Their second single "Drowning in the Sea of Love," which didn't chart here, was another nice slice of cinematic pop, but again it just wasn't going to excite US radio listeners. I like what the band had to offer, it was just that they didn't have that one killer track that would have put them over the top. If you like that big, arena-filling sound of bands like Tears for Fears or Simple Minds, I'd suggest listening to their album. Very interesting.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Before forming The Adventures, Terry Sharpe was a member of another popular Irish band called The Starjets. Formed in 1976, the band honed their skills over the next couple of years and developed a punk-pop/power pop sound that garnered them attention. They signed with Epic Records in 1978 and released a few singles before finally getting on the UK chart with "War Stories" in 1979 (#51). A debut album, God Bless the Starjets, would follow, yet despite good notices it didn't get anywhere. Still signed to Epic, the band got a new guitarist, Pat Gribben, and renamed themselves as Tango Brigade. A lone single was released in 1981 by the band, but it failed to generate interest. With that result, the band lost their contract and split up. Sharpe and Gribben would then go on to form The Adventures. In April, 2020, The Starjets would end up getting a little bit of attention. Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong recorded the song for a video series he did called "No Fun Mondays." During the COVID pandemic, Armstrong recorded cover tunes and released them on Mondays on Green Day's YouTube channel. He ended up doing thirteen cover songs the eighth of which was The Starjets' "War Stories." The series was so popular that Armstrong decided to compile the songs for release. No Fun Mondays was released in November of 2020. It featured the thirteen tracks he had already put on YouTube along with one additional song. Other songs Armstrong covered included the Bangles "Manic Monday," Tommy James & the Shondell's "I Think We're Alone Now," and Kim Wilde's "Kids in America." (P.S.: The Starjets album is pretty great for any fan of power pop - you can find it on YouTube.)


Sunday, May 16, 2021

"Foolish Beat" by Debbie Gibson

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3495
Date:  04/23/1988
Debut:  57
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Gibson's debut album, Out of the Blue, was already a platinum success when this fourth single was issued out. Expectations were high that the song would follow her three previous singles into the Top 10, but it ended up exceeding that goal by going all the way to #1. It also did well at AC getting to #8. The hit boosted albums sales and in May it would go double-platinum. By the end of the year, it would be certified triple-platinum.

ReduxReview:  Apparently Gibson's favorite artist around the time she was recording her debut album was George Michael and it shows with this song. Gibson wrote and produced this track on her own (see below) and there's no mistaking that she used Michael's "Careless Whisper" as inspiration. It had a similar feel to that Wham! hit and even included a sax solo. What's also a little unusual about this song is that the title is not in the chorus and is only mentioned once in the entire song. While not necessarily a rare occurrence, it wasn't very common for a #1 Pop hit. Gibson did a fine job with this track. The lyrics, while not sophisticated, were just right for her teen audience and her production work was good and quite detailed. She had been arranging and recording her own songs for years before this, so I'm sure she took advantage of having all the bells and whistles afforded to her via a major label. It was the right single at the right time for her and I think it garnered her some respect from industry pros.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Overall, the youngest artist to reach #1 on the Pop chart was Michael Jackson. He was eleven years old when The Jackson 5 reached the top spot with their 1970 single "I Want You Back." For solo artists, Stevie Wonder was the youngest male to reach #1 (1963, "Fingertips, Pt. 2"). He was thirteen. Little Peggy March was the youngest female at fifteen (1963, "I Will Follow Him"). Although Debbie Gibson was seventeen when "Foolish Beat" reached #1, she also set an age record. She became the youngest artist to solely write, perform, and produce a #1 song. While the majority of her debut album was produced by Gibson along with Fred Zarr, Gibson fought for the chance to produce "Foolish Beat" by herself. It paid off in a #1 hit. Gibson's age record would stand for over nineteen years. It was finally beaten in 2007 by rap artist Soulja Boy. His debut single "Crank That (Soulja Boy)," credited to Soulja Boy Tell 'Em, reached #1 and stayed there for seven weeks. It would become the first single to be certified triple platinum for digital sales and would earn Soulja Boy a Grammy nomination. When Gibson's song hit #1, she was seventeen years, nine months old. When Soulja Boy hit #1, he was seventeen years and one month old. Although Soulja Boy claimed the overall record, Gibson still holds the title for female artists.