Saturday, June 12, 2021

"Fat" by "Weird Al" Yankovic

Song#:  3522
Date:  05/21/1988
Debut:  99
Peak:  99
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Comedy, Parody


Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Yankovic's comedic parodies of hit songs and offbeat originals had resulted in two gold albums (later both would be platinum and his debut LP would go gold). He seemed to be on a roll, but then his fourth album, 1986's Polka Party!, slowed his momentum. Critics were not impressed, none of its singles charted, and even the associated music videos seemed to fall flat at MTV. The lack of support left the LP peaking at a very minor #177; his worst showing to-date. It had Yankovic thinking his time in the sun was over, but he decided to rally and give it another go. He recorded some original tunes for a new album, but knew he needed a solid parody to grab attention and as soon as he heard Michael Jackson's "Bad," a concept for a parody came right to him. Although he didn't necessarily want to parody another Jackson song since he had already done the gold-selling "Eat It," his concept was too strong to ignore and he sought permission from Jackson to use "Bad." Like before, Jackson agreed and Yankovic turned "Bad" into "Fat." It would be issued out as the first single from his fourth LP Even Worse, which itself sported a cover that was a take on Jackson's Bad album. While the single didn't necessarily get anywhere on the Pop chart, the song's associated music video was a sensation on MTV and it helped the album get to #27 and quickly go gold (later platinum). The album get a Grammy nod for Best Comedy Album while the video would win a Grammy for Best Concept Music Video. It was a solid comeback for Yankovic.

ReduxReview:  "Bad" was the perfect song to parody in order to rejuvenate Yankovic's career. The timing of it was perfect with the Bad album still pushing out singles and Jackson just as hot as ever. That was truly the key to Yankovic's success; finding the right song to parody and get it out at the right time. I think that's why Polka Party! failed as he just didn't tap into the right songs/artists at the time. What also helped this song was, obviously, the video. His take on Jackson's video was inspired and hilarious. I also think that may be why the single didn't do well because everyone just wanted to see the video over and over again. While Yankovic does a great job with the parody, the song itself is nothing I'd clamor to hear. Once is fine. It's hard to judge tunes like this so I think the criteria would have to be if the parody did its job in being clever versus a random comedy bit someone tossed together. I think Weird Al did well by the song. However, I do have to wonder if in today's more sensitive culture if this song would be as welcomed as it was back in the day.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Over the years, Yankovic would place a few minor singles on the Pop chart, but in 2006, he finally grabbed his first and only Top 10 hit. "White & Nerdy," the second single from his album Straight Outta Lynwood, would make it to #5. The tune was a parody of the 2005 #1 Pop/#7 R&B hit "Ridin'" by Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone. Yankovic's single would be a platinum seller and would help the album become his first Top 10 as well (#10). In 2014, Yankovic would finally get his first #1 album with Mandatory Fun. It would also earn Yankovic his fourth overall Grammy and his third in the Best Comedy Album category.

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Friday, June 11, 2021

"Only a Memory" by The Smithereens

Song#:  3521
Date:  05/21/1988
Debut:  100
Peak:  92
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock, Power Pop


Pop Bits:  This New Jersey band started to come together in 1980 when singer/guitarist Pat DiNizio put an ad in the local paper looking for a drummer for demo work. A guy answered who happened to be in a band with two of his high school friends. All four got together and The Smithereens were born. Not long after their formation, the band issued out an indie EP titled Girls About Town. Over the next few years, they honed their skills and gained a solid following. In 1983, they put out their second EP, Beauty and Sadness. It sold well and the guys returned to the studio and recorded five songs that they hoped would help get them a major record deal. Enigma Records would be the one to sign the band and a full-length debut album, 1986's Especially for You, would be recorded with Don Dixon (R.E.M.) producing. Its first single, "Blood and Roses," got to #14 at Rock. A second single made it to #23. The singles plus a good critical response pushed the album to #51. With that success, a second LP was warranted and the band came up with Green Thoughts. This first single was released and it became a hit at Rock reaching #1. The attention there helped the song cross over to the Pop chart, but it would only stay on the bottom rungs for a month. Good reviews and another Rock Top 20 entry helped the album get to #60.

ReduxReview:  I would discover The Smithereens on their next LP, so I didn't hear this song until much later when after becoming a fan I went back to hear their first releases. I loved their concise, hooky, melodic, 60s mod-based power pop sound along with Pat DiNizio's voice. Had I heard this track when it first came out, I probably would have bought the album. Alas, it would take another year or so before I finally became aware of them. No one else around this time was pushing out retro-ish power pop, so they had the market pretty much to themselves and were able to gain a big following. However, their style of rock wasn't necessarily something pop radio was into at the time so they were a bit of a hard sell. Still, with support from rock radio and MTV, they were able to crack the Pop chart, if just briefly. The song should have done a lot better, but at least the album sold pretty well.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The band's first Rock chart hit, "Blood and Roses," would end up being featured on three movie soundtrack albums. It first was used in the 1986 film Dangerously Close that starred John Stockwell and Carey Lowell (of Law & Order fame). The film about teenage vigilantes was panned by critics, but was able to make enough money at the box office to cover costs. Next, the song was used in the 1989 teen romance/drama Under the Boardwalk. That starless flick went nowhere except perhaps straight to video. The track was then finally used in a film that did fairly well at the box office. It was put on the soundtrack to the 1997 comedy Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, which starred Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow. The film got middling reviews, but was able to make a little money at the box office. The soundtrack album, which featured several classic hits from the 80s, sold well and got to #64.

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Thursday, June 10, 2021

"New Sensation" by INXS

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3520
Date:  05/14/1988
Debut:  63
Peak:  3
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock


Pop Bits:  The Aussie band's sixth album, Kick, was quickly becoming their most successful effort in the US. By this point in time, it had peaked at #3, gone double-platinum, and had spawned two big hits including the #2 "Devil Inside." The results were terrific for the band, but they were not done yet. This third single would be issued out and it would also become a big hit getting to #3. It also got to #8 at Rock. With the tune peaking at #3, INSX had the rare occurrence where the peak position of the first three singles from an album coincided with the order in which they were released. The first single, "Need You Tonight," hit #1, then "Devil Inside" at #2, and then "New Sensation" at #3.

ReduxReview:  After two singles that had sleek, sexy grooves, the band pushed out this rockin' track. It was upbeat, positive, hooky, and refreshing. In other words, a perfect follow-up. It had a similar feel to their other hit "What You Need," but the song wasn't a rehash or a copy. It stood on its own and sounded great on the radio. It was a no-brainer that this was going to become their fourth Top 10 hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This track has a small inside joke included. As the song was being recorded, band member/guitarist Tim Farriss wanted to play a trumpet solo in the instrumental break. However, the band's other guitarist/sax player Kirk Pengilly wanted to do a sax solo, which he had done on the band's first US Top 10 hit "What You Need" (#5). It seems that following discussions about which instrument would have the solo, Pengilly won out. As a joke reference to the situation, singer Michael Hutchence says "trumpet" in the song right before the sax solo. While on record it was a quirky reference, it wasn't quite right in a visual way. For the associated music video it seemed weird to have Hutchence say "trumpet" and then show a sax, so his reference was removed from the video's music track.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

"Trouble" by Nia Peeples

Song#:  3519
Date:  05/14/1988
Debut:  88
Peak:  35
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Dance-Pop


Pop Bits:  Born in Hollywood, Peeples was certainly in the right area to start an entertainment career. She first gave acting a go and picked up a few roles guesting on TV shows and appearing in a couple of soaps including General Hospital. But it was her role on the hit series Fame that put her in the limelight. She was with the show in its last three seasons. When Fame ended in '87, Peeples decided to give music a shot. Mercury Records saw an opportunity with Peeples since she had a built-in audience from Fame and signed her on. She first recorded "Trouble," a tune written and produced by Steve Harvey (not the comedian/game show host). It was issued out as a single and first began to gain favor in dance clubs. As the track made its way to #1 on the Dance chart, it then started to cross over to Pop. The tune was able to make the Top 40, but it couldn't get any further. It also got to #71 R&B. With the success of the single, Peeples then was able to finish off her debut album Nothin' But Trouble. Released in August of '87, it would get to #97. A second single, "High Time," would get to #10 at Dance, but it failed to make the Pop chart. A third single would be a minor #28 entry at Dance.

ReduxReview:  I was a fan of the TV show Fame and so when I saw Nia Peeples had a single coming out, I was curious as to the direction she would go. Ended up she went right for dance-pop and it sounded pretty darn good. The crisp production and slick groove had a bit of a Janet Jackson feel, but wasn't fully steeped in the Minneapolis sound. It was more akin to Paula Abdul, who had yet to reach the Pop chart (she would in a month's time). I really like this song and figured it would possibly reach the Top 10. I was disappointed when it stopped just inside the Top 40. It is still a cool jam and one that I will usually toss in to an 80s playlist.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Peeples was not the first person to record "Trouble." The tune was first given to La Toya Jackson. She recorded the song with Steve Harvey producing as a potential track for her first album for RCA Records, 1988's La Toya, but in the end the song was not used and set aside. Harvey next worked with Peeples and brought along the song. Jackson wanted to change up her sound for her La Toya album and worked with a pair of songwriting/production teams. She enlisted Full Force for four tracks and the Stock Aitken Waterman team for three others. The only single to make a chart was "You're Gonna Get Rocked!," which got to #66 R&B. Without anything to really promote it, the album failed to chart. Her original version of "Trouble" would be included on a 2013 reissue of La Toya.  2) It would take Peeples about three years to get a second album out. Her acting career played a part in that since she was cast in the NBC police drama Nasty Boys, which took a big bite out of her schedule. Unfortunately, the series would only last one season. Peeples eventually found time to do a second LP, this time for Charisma Records. The self-titled effort got kicked off with the new jack swing single "Street of Dreams." It would be her biggest hit on the Pop chart getting to #12 (#73 R&B). Two further singles would reach the lower rungs of the Pop chart. Despite the one hit, the album failed to chart. After that, it seems Peeples chose to stay with acting. She has appeared in many films and TV shows including three seasons on Walker, Texas Ranger, a couple years on The Young and the Restless, and more recently on the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

"Tomorrow People" by Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers

Song#:  3518
Date:  05/14/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  39
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Reggae


Pop Bits:  In 1979, reggae legend Bob Marley got his four oldest children, Sharon, Cedella, David (aka Ziggy), and Stephen,  to record a song he wrote titled "Children Playing in the Street." The single would be used as a benefit for the United Nations and their International Year of the Child project. It was released as by the Melody Makers. Ranging in age from 7 to 15, the quartet would begin to focus more on a career together following the death of Bob Marley in 1981. They would release a few singles beginning in '82 and would attempt to record an album, which got shelved. In '85, they would record a debut album, Play the Game Right, with producer Steve Levine (Culture Club). The majority of the songs were written by Ziggy. It would be well-received and would earn the siblings a Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album. A second LP, Hey World!, would come out in '86, however this time the group became officially known as Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers. The album got enough attention to reach #96 on the US chart. With their popularity on the increase, the band signed on with Virgin Records and in '88 recorded their third effort Conscious Party, which was produced by Talking Heads members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth. This first single was issued out and it did quite well at Rock reaching #16. The tune crossed over to the Pop chart and became the band's first (and only) to crack the Top 40. In doing so, the siblings surpassed their father's best effort on the Pop chart, the 1976 #51 "Roots, Rock, Reggae." Conscious Party would perform well reaching #23 Pop/#26 R&B. It would go gold in the summer of '88 and eventually turn platinum. It would also earn the band their first Grammy win (Best Reggae Album).

ReduxReview: While there have certainly been some reggae songs to make the Pop chart over the years, it wasn't a genre that was continually represented. Just every now and then one would break through and in the late 80s, this was the reggae track that made a few waves. I think it did well thanks to Island giving it a good promotion, a boost from MTV, and having a pair of Talking Heads as producers. Plus, it was just a good song with a hooky chorus. It was an easy jam to groove along with and it was great for summer radio airplay. It should have done better, but the fact that it got in the Top 40 was a good accomplishment and it helped the album become a gold seller, which at the time wasn't all that common for a reggae recording.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  With this song, the siblings surpassed their father's best effort on the US Pop chart. His 1976 single "Roots, Rock, Reggae" would make it to #51. It would end up being is only song to get on the Pop chart. Despite not having singles get on the chart, Bob Marley's albums during the 70s and early 80s performed well with four of his regular studio albums making the Top 50 including his sole Top 10 entry, 1976's Rastaman Vibration (#8). Marley's albums would continue to sell well over the years and more than a decade after his death, five of his studio albums and one live set would all be certified gold. However, all those totaled up don't even come close to the biggest seller in Marley's catalog. In 1984, Island Records put together the compilation Legend: The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers. The collection was geared more towards a UK audience where Marley scored six Top 10 hits. When released, the LP reached #1 in the UK and stayed there for 12 weeks. It would also be pushed out in the US, but on its initial chart run, it peaked at #54. However, over the years the LP continued to steadily sell and it would bounce on and off the chart. It would reach a new peak of #18 in 2012, but would finally crack the Top 10 (#5) in 2014 thanks to a 99 cent price sale for the digital version. As of June 7, 2021, the album had spent 680 non-consecutive weeks on the chart (over 13 years) and was still going. Only one album has spent more time on the chart. Pink Floyd's 1973 #1 classic The Dark Side of the Moon hung around for 958 weeks. Sales certainly factor in to chart longevity and Legend has reached the 15 million mark which puts it in the list of the Top 20 best sellers of all time in the US. It is also among the best selling albums worldwide with over 25 million in sales.

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Monday, June 7, 2021

"Love Changes (Everything)" by Climie Fisher

Song#:  3517
Date:  04/14/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  23
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop


Pop Bits:  This British duo consisted of Simon Climie and Rob Fisher, hence the name Climie Fisher. The pair met while doing session work at Abbey Road Studios. Climie was a singer/songwriter who had penned tunes for other artists including two songs that became hits; "Invincible" (#10) by Pat Benatar and "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" (#1) by Aretha Franklin and George Michael. Rob Fisher was one-half of another duo, Naked Eyes. They scored four Top 40 hits in '83/'84 including the #8 "Always Something There to Remind Me." With both artists having success, it seemed probable that together they would do well, so they joined forces and gave it a go. They were signed to EMI and in '86 they tested the waters with the UK single "This Is Me." It didn't chart. Undeterred, they pushed forward and nearly a year later released "Love Changes (Everything)." It scrapped the UK chart at #67. It was an improvement and they continued to work on a debut album. They would finally break through in a bigger way with a remix of the album track "Rise to the Occasion." It would reach #10 in the UK. That led to "Love Changes (Everything)" getting a new mix and re-release. On its second go-around, it became the duo's biggest hit reaching #2 in the UK. A deal for US distribution was quickly struck and the single pushed out. It didn't do quite as well, but was able to reach the Pop Top 30 while getting to #12 AC and #16 Dance. Unfortunately, it would end up being their only single to reach the US Pop chart. The album was a minor seller that got to #120. It did far better in the UK reaching #14.

ReduxReview:  What I remember about this song is that some folks thought this was a new pop single from Rod Stewart. You have to admit, Climie's voice does recall the rock legend. I actually think this song would have fit Stewart well. If he bumped it up with a more rock-oriented arrangement, I think he would have had a Top 10 hit. Regardless, the track was a really nice pop tune. It was well-written and it got a nice 80s production. I pegged this to go Top 10, so was surprised when it didn't even crack the Top 20. I think I bought a promo copy of the album at the local used record shop. There wasn't anything else on it quite as hooky and memorable as this song, but it was a pleasant listen. However, they might have missed out on a hit. The duo wrote the album track "Room to Move" with Dennis Morgan. It would later be remade by Animotion and released as a single in '89. It would get to #9.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The duo would release a second LP in '89 titled Coming In for the Kill, but it wasn't as successful. In the UK, it would spawn three minor charting singles and only get to #35 on the chart. It was totally ignored in the US. With that result, they split up. Climie would release a solo album in '92, but it didn't get anywhere. He would continue to write and produce for other artists including Eric Clapton and Michael McDonald. Along the way he would collect two Grammys as co-producer for Clapton's 2000 album with B.B. King Riding with the King (Best Traditional Blues Album) and for Clapton's 2006 collaboration with J.J. Cale The Road to Escondido (Best Contemporary Blues Album). Fisher would also retreat to the background and collaborate with other artists as well. He would co-write Rick Astley's final US Top 10 hit, 1991's "Cry for Help." Sadly, Fisher died in 1999 after having surgery for bowel cancer.

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Sunday, June 6, 2021

"Rooty Toot Toot" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Song#:  3516
Date:  05/14/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  61
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock, Americana


Pop Bits:  Mellencamp's ninth album, The Lonesome Jubilee, became another critical and commercial hit for him that reached #6 on the chart. It was spurred along by two Top 10 hits along with the #14 "Check It Out." To follow that song up, this fourth single was issued out. While it would do well at Rock getting to #7, it lost its footing on the Pop chart and slid off after a couple of months. It would be his lowest peaking single on the chart since 1980. With that result, it brought an end to singles from the LP, which had already gone double-platinum in January of '88. Later in '95, it would be certified triple-platinum.

ReduxReview:  This was another solid rocker from Mellencamp that matched up well with the other singles from the album. While it may not have been as strong as some of his previous hits, it was a fun track that I thought would be able to at least crack the Top 40. The fact that it couldn't even get in the top half of the chart might have been an indication that pop radio and listeners were tiring of the organic, Americana rock that Mellencamp had been doing over the course of two LPs. I was still diggin' it though.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  By the time Mellencamp was recording The Lonesome Jubilee, he had three daughters. One from his first marriage, the other two from his second marriage. According to a 1987 interview with Mellencamp in Creem magazine, his youngest, Teddi Jo, complained that he had written songs or used the names of her two sisters in his work (Justice and Michelle Suzanne) and she wanted him to do something for her. He ended up writing a bit of a nursery rhyme specifically for her that didn't have music. When he showed the piece to his guitarist Larry Crane, Crane thought it was a nice little story that had potential for a song. Mellencamp went ahead and turned the rhyme into a tune and it became "Rooty Toot Toot." Teddy Jo's name would be used in the first verse. Mellencamp would have two more kids (sons Hud and Speck), both from his third marriage.

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