Saturday, June 26, 2021

"Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  3536
Date:  06/04/1988
Debut:  95
Peak:  6
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Contemporary Folk, Singer/Songwriter


Pop Bits:  Chapman began playing guitar and writing songs as a kid growing up in Cleveland, Ohio. She later attended Tufts University and performed around the Boston area. A fellow Tufts student happened to hear her perform and told his father about her. His dad just happened to be music publisher Charles Koppelman. He would eventually get Chapman signed to Elektra Records following her graduation from Tufts. Work began on a debut album with producer David Kershenbaum. It would be released in the spring of '88 along with this first single. A contemporary folk album with political and social themes didn't seem like something that would set the charts afire, but after an appearance at a televised event (see below), both the single and the album took off in a big way. The single would end up in the Pop Top 10 while reaching #7 AC and #19 Rock. The hit sent the album to the top of the chart for a week in late August. By fall the LP went double-platinum. Of course the Grammy folks took notice of Chapman. She earned seven nominations including ones for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. She would win three Grammys; Best New Artist, Best Contemporary Folk Album, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (for "Fast Car").

ReduxReview:  I remember when this song came out. People were freak out by it as if they had never heard an acoustic folk song before. Granted, it was something a bit unusual for pop radio at the time, but it wasn't like some new crazy genre just emerged. I think it was just that an artist like Chapman hadn't truly hit the mainstream in ages and a younger generation hadn't really had a chance to hear contemporary folk music that had heavier topics and thoughtful lyrics. It seemed new and fresh. Chapman had the right sound, the right song, and the right album at just the right time. "Fast Car" was just a terrific song. The lilting guitar line was a hook in itself, but then Chapman weaved her tale in a voice that was both hopeful and weary. Her breakthrough, along with Suzanne Vega's recent success with "Luka,"  would help put a spotlight on other up-n-coming singer/songwriters such as future Grammy winners Indigo Girls and Shawn Colvin.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  There was a good chance that Chapman might have done well via promos, critical reviews, and word of mouth. However, she may not have exploded on the scene and sold millions of albums had she not appeared at a special televised event. In June of '88, a concert was organized to celebrate the 70th birthday of Nelson Mandela, who was still imprisoned at the time. The event was held at Wembley Stadium and was to be televised. It featured big name music artists and speakers such as Bee Gees, Whoopi Goldberg, Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Eurythmics, George Michael, Whitney Houston, and many others. Tracy Chapman was on the bill and she performed three songs earlier in the 11-hour event. Her set was well-received, but an odd event would truly push her into the limelight. Stevie Wonder was scheduled to perform in the early evening when crowds and TV viewers would be more tuned in to the show. As he was about to go on, it was discovered that a hard disk for his synth that had his pre-set music for his songs was missing. Wonder said he could not perform without it and ended up walking out of the event. There was an urgent need to fill time in order to set up for the next act, so Tracy Chapman was asked to grab her guitar and go on stage to perform again. Unexpectedly shoved in the spotlight in front of millions of people, she performed two songs including "Fast Car." The next day after her impromptu set, sales of her album skyrocketed and "Fast Car" began to quickly ascend chart around the world. That moment of chance appearance helped spark Chapman's meteoric rise to fame. As for Wonder, he was finally coaxed back to the event. He and his band found a way to get along with out the hard disk and they eked out a couple of tunes in the latter portion of the event.

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Friday, June 25, 2021

"I Know You're Out There Somewhere" by The Moody Blues

Song#:  3535
Date:  06/04/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  30
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Soft Rock


Pop Bits:  Over two decades after their debut album, The Moody Blues unexpectedly scored a #9 platinum album with 1986's The Other Side of Life. It was boosted by the hit "Your Wildest Dream," which reached #9 Pop/#1 AC/#2 Rock. The success of the single was thanks in part to a sentimental music video that got heavy rotation on MTV. In an attempt to make lightning strike twice, the band recorded their next LP Sur la Mer, which included this first single that served as a sequel to "Your Wildest Dreams." The track would do well at Rock (#2) and AC (#9), but it would not get close to replicating the success of their previous hit on the Pop chart. The best it could do was just barely making the Top 30. Because of that, the album would only manage to reach #38. Save for their non-charting 1965 debut, it was the band's lowest peaking studio album to-date. This single would end up being their last to reach the Pop chart. A second single, "No More Lies," would make it to #15 at AC.

ReduxReview:  I thought this was a really good song and single for the band. While I didn't think it would go Top 10, I figured it was strong enough to get close. The #30 peak was a bit of a surprise and disappointment. You don't often get sequel songs and it was cool that the band and songwriter Justin Hayward gave it a go. To me the attempt was successful with Hayward coming up with a lovely, sweet song. The album was not one of their better efforts, but I'm sure pressure from the label to get another hit album didn't help the creative process. Yet the Moodies remain a favorite band of mine with Days of Future Passed and Long Distance Voyager getting perennial plays along with their hits.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Due to the success of the video for "Your Wildest Dreams," the band decided to continue the story of the of the band's lead singer and a long lost love. The original video earned the band a Billboard award for Video of the Year. The sequel wasn't quite as successful, but it did play well on VH1 and that helped the song on the AC chart.  2) After Sur la Mer, the band experienced some issues with long-time members and there would be some personnel shifts. They would return in 1991 with Keys of the Kingdom. The lead single, "Say It with Love," would get to #31 AC/#22 Rock, but fail to make the Pop chart. The band would tour performing with symphony orchestras which led to a concert at the famous Red Rocks amphitheater. The show would be captured on video and also released as a live album. The 1993 release A Night at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra would only get to #93 on the chart, but it would end up being a gold seller. The associated VHS video would also go gold. The band would continue touring and along the way only release two new studio albums; 1999's Strange Times (#93) and the 2003 holiday-themed December.
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Thursday, June 24, 2021

"Sign Your Name" by Terence Trent D'Arby

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3534
Date:  05/27/1988
Debut:  72
Peak:  4
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, Soul


Pop Bits:  D'Arby's debut album, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby, finally took flight after its second single, "Wishing Well," topped both the Pop and R&B charts. The hit would send the album soaring up to #4 at Pop and #1 at R&B. With momentum on his side, D'Arby then issued out this follow-up single. It would prove to be another winner getting to #2 R&B and #4 Pop. It also got to #13 at AC while a remix made it to #23 at Dance. The hit helped album sales and by the fall of '88 the album would be certified double platinum. This song would end up being D'Arby's last to reach the Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  This groovy mid-tempo track was a solid follow-up to the funky "Wishing Well." The song had a bit of Sade's exotic jazziness, which was perfect for the time period. It was a sleek, sexy tune that played well on radio. D'Arby's ego was far larger than either of his two big hits, but he did show that he had the goods to be a star and walked away with a 2x platinum LP. Unfortunately, he didn't have the ability (or perhaps want) to continue to make commercially viable songs and his time near the tops of the charts quickly came to an end. Still, there's no denying that his debut LP was pretty great.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  D'Arby would received a pair of Grammy nods from his debut effort. One for Best New Artist and one for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male. In his career, he would end up earning one more Grammy nomination. In 1995, he would get a nod for Best R&B Performance, Duo or Group with Vocal. This came from a collaboration he did with the R&B/funk band Booker T. & the M.G.'s. The two acts got together and recorded a version of "A Change Is Gonna Come." That song was written and recorded by soul star Sam Cooke in 1964. Released as a single, it would get to #9 R&B/#31 Pop. It became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement and remains an enduring classic. The D'Arby/Booker T. version was done for the 1995 Discovery Channel documentary The Promised Land, which focused on the Great Migration of the 40s through the 70s when nearly five millon African Americans moved from the South to the North. For the series, many songs from the time period were selected to be used and a double-CD soundtrack was created. Some of the songs on the album were the original versions while more current artists, such as D'Arby, were tapped to do covers. There were also some original songs commissioned as well. The collection did not chart. Although the D'Arby/Booker T. track was not issued out as a single, it did get the attention of the Grammy folks and received a nomination.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

"The Colour of Love" by Billy Ocean

Song#:  3533
Date:  05/28/1988
Debut:  76
Peak:  17
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Pop, R&B


Pop Bits:  Ocean got his third Pop #1 with the quirky "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car," the first single from his album Tear Down These Walls. It was also a winner at R&B topping that chart. The hit helped the LP sell, but he really needed another big hit in order for the album to match the double-platinum sales of his previous two efforts. This ballad was selected as a follow-up and while it would do well at AC (#2) and R&B (#10), it could only reach the Pop Top 20. It wasn't a bad result, but it didn't bode well for further singles and indeed his next one, "Tear Down These Walls," could only get to #27 R&B while missing the other charts. That left the LP falling short of the Pop Top 10 at #18 (#7 R&B). It would go platinum, but that was a drop in sales from his previous two LPs. 

ReduxReview:  I had forgotten about this song. It was actually a lovely pop ballad that was well-written (although a smidge sentimental) and recorded. The single was perfect for AC radio and indeed it came close to topping that chart. For Pop, I think it was just a little too sweet and old-fashioned to compete with the big ballads by Whitney or even the teen-leaning ditties by pop/R&B artists like The Jets. Still, it was a nice tune and one that seems to be very rarely played these days.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Since his 1976 debut album, Ocean pretty much focused on his own recording career. He very rarely worked with or for other artists. However, when he was recorded his hit breakthrough LP, 1984's Suddenly, Ocean supplied harmony vocals for a song by an artist whose music wasn't even close to being in Ocean's comfort zone. US-born Scott Walker became famous as a member of the 60s trio The Walker Brothers ("The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore," 1966, #1 UK/#13 US). The group became highly successful in the UK after they moved there in '65. After a split in '67, Walker went solo and scored four UK Top 10 albums. He also had his own BBC TV music show in '69 simply titled Scott. The early 70s were a down time for him and he mainly did cover albums that were not successful. He reunited with The Walker Brothers for three albums in the mid-70s, the last of which, '78's Nite Flights, found Walker writing more avant-garde rock tracks such as the eerie "The Electrician." This new path sent Walker on a solo path again and in '84 he would record his first solo effort in a decade. The art rock LP Climate of Hunter would featured seven Walker compositions four of which were titled after their position in the track listing, such as "Track Three." While it is unknown what linked the two artists, somehow, Walker got Billy Ocean into the studio to do the harmony vocals on "Track Three." At that point in time, Ocean wasn't a huge international star yet, but once his streak of hits started, some folks who perhaps owned the Climate of Hunter album discovered the odd credit. Walker's album would return him to the UK chart (#60) and he would go on to record several more avant-garde/art rock albums that would be critically successful and gain a cult status. Walker would pass away in 2019.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

"Darlin' Danielle Don't" by Henry Lee Summer

Song#:  3532
Date:  05/28/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  57
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock


Pop Bits:  Summer's self-titled major label debut album got kicked off in a good way with its first single, "I Wish I Had a Girl," getting to #20 Pop and making it all the way to #1 at Rock. It was a significant break through and to keep up the momentum this next single was released. It did well at Rock cracking the Top 10 at #9, but over at Pop it couldn't quite make the top half of the chart. Still, the album sold fairly well and peaked at #56.

ReduxReview:  As with "I Wish I Had a Girl," this was a track from Summer's 1986 indie-released second album that got re-recorded for his CBS debut LP. Between the two tracks, it was easy to hear why a major label picked him up. However, I find it odd that it took so long for one to finally commit. Perhaps they didn't see the market for his heartland pop/rock or thought that folks like John Mellencamp already had a lock on that area. Regardless, he finally got a deal and it paid off pretty well. This was another good track from him and it should have done better at Pop. There was a bit of an Eddie Money edge going on with the tune along with a smidge of soul and blues. Yeah it wasn't quite as catchy as his previous hit, but it was certainly Top 40 material.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Summer would be kept busy in '88 by his label, CBS Associated. In addition to his self-titled album and tour/promo dates, the label got him to provide vocals for two songs that would appear on movie soundtracks. Summer typically wrote most all of his own songs, but for the film tunes it seems CBS just wanted him to perform. Both films were big productions that would open near the end of '88 during the holidays. The first track Summer did was "If You Were My Girl," which was used in the sequel film Iron Eagle II. The film didn't do nearly as well as the first installment and the soundtrack failed to chart. Summer's second film song, "No Way of Knowing," was for the oddball comedy Twins starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. While Summer didn't write the tune, he was more hands-on producing the track and playing some instruments. The film was a box office hit, but the soundtrack less so. With no hits to promote it, the LP topped out at #162.

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Monday, June 21, 2021

"Wishing I Was Lucky" by Wet Wet Wet

Song#:  3531
Date:  05/28/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  58
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul


Pop Bits:  This Scottish band made up of high school friends first began to form in '82. They initially played covers, but then spent a couple of years creating their own songs and refining their sound. They would sign on with PolyGram Records in '85, but mainly due to management issues, they wouldn't get to release this debut single in the UK until the spring of '87. It became a hit reaching #6. As they worked up an album, a second single, "Sweet Little Mystery," would get to #5. Their debut LP, Popped Out in Soul, would appear in the fall while a third single also made the Top 10. The album would become a huge hit reaching #1 and going 5x platinum. The success led to a distribution deal in the US and the band got launched with their initial hit "Wishing I Was Lucky." Unfortunately, it seems that the band's style of music didn't connect with US listeners with the song remaining in the bottom half of the US Pop chart for a couple of months. With little to promote it, the LP stalled at a minor #123. Save for a '94 soundtrack single (see below), the band wouldn't chart again in the US and remained virtually unknown. However, at home in the UK they became major stars.

ReduxReview:  The style of music now known as sophisti-pop (which didn't exist back in the day - it came about many years later) was certainly popular in the UK and most of the artists who get that tag now were from the UK such as ABC, Spandau Ballet, The Style Council, Swing Out Sister, and Wet Wet Wet. Those artists would remain popular in the UK and Europe after their initial hit, but in the US it was mostly a one-and-done affair (except for ABC who fared better). An artist might have that one really catchy track that got them a hit, but for some reason that was enough for US pop radio listeners. I'm not sure why. Maybe that sophisti-pop sound was fun once in a while and not something folks wanted to hear consistently. Other genres like reggae and blues are like that as well. Wet Wet Wet pretty much had the same thing happen to them in the US as the others, but to a lesser extent as they weren't able to grab a major hit. It was too bad because the band was quite good and lead singer Marti Pellow had a lovely voice. This single did have a little early ABC-ish style to it, but the song wasn't a copy or an imitation. It was a good soul-pop track that was performed and produced quite well. It should have done much better in the US, but I guess it wasn't what listeners here wanted. It probably didn't help that there was another "lucky' titled song climbing the chart at the same time with Kylie Minogue's "I Should Be So Lucky." The band really hit their stride on the next two albums, but they were completely ignored in the US. It happens. Something wildly popular in one place doesn't translate the same elsewhere. They were major stars at home, yet couldn't even obtain cult status in the US.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) So, what is up with the name? Early on when they were playing covers, the band called themselves Vortex Motion. When they moved into creating their own songs, the band decided to change their name and chose Wet Wet Wet. Apparently, the name stems from a 1982 song by the British synthpop/new wave band Scritti Politti. On their full-length debut album Songs to Remember was a track titled "Gettin' Havin' & Holdin'." It featured the line "It's tired of joking - wet, wet with tears." For some reason, that line became memorable for the band and they added and extra "wet" to create their band name.  2) The band would have tremendous success in the UK. Prior to their initial breakup in '97, they would release five studio albums. Three would get to #1 while the other two got to #2. A compilation album would also get to #1. Those albums would yield twelve UK Top 10 hits including three #1s. Their most successful single in the UK and internationally would not be one of their original tunes, but a remake. In '94, the band recorded "Love Is All Around," a song originally recorded by the British band The Troggs. Their 1967 single would get to #5 in the UK and #7 in the US. The Wet Wet Wet version would be featured on the soundtrack to the hit comedy film Four Weddings and a Funeral. The single would go Top 10 in many countries. In the UK it would reach #1 and stay there for a record-setting fifteen weeks. It would later lose that record to Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," which stayed at #1 for sixteen weeks in '91. In the US, the single would stop at the dreaded #41 on the Pop chart, but would get to #8 on the AC chart.

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Sunday, June 20, 2021

"You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart" by Eurythmics

Song#:  3530
Date:  05/27/1988
Debut:  95
Peak:  64
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Synthpop, Blue-Eyed Soul


Pop Bits:  Eurythmics had placed four studio albums in the US Top 15 prior to the release of their sixth album Savage. It was probably expected that the LP would follow suit, but it just didn't seem to have that one single they needed to get that done. The first single, "I Need a Man," stalled short of the Top 40 (#46) and this second single would fare worse by not even cracking the top half of the chart. With those results, the album would stop at #41 and fail to reach gold level sales. No further singles from the LP would be released in the US.

ReduxReviewSavage is one of those albums in an artist's catalog that may have not performed well commercially, but then became a cult-ish fan favorite. It was easy for a lot of folks to love Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) or Touch, but Savage was a different beast. It was experimental and nearly chilly in nature. I certainly thought the rave "I Need a Man" should have been a big hit, but other than that there were no other hit contenders on the LP. Yet when played as a whole, it all came together in a way that none of their other albums did. Is it a great album or is it their best? No, but I find it one of their most haunting works and I've always liked it. This Motown/soul-tinged track was probably the best shot at being a single and it was easily the warmest track of the bunch despite taking about a "chill." It might have done better had "I Need a Man" been a hit. Instead it came and went fairly quick, which was too bad. 

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In the duo's UK homeland, the album fared better, but out of their charting LPs, it would be their worst performing peaking at #7. Their six other charting studio albums all made it to at least #4 with two going to #1. Savage was also their first album, save for their non-charting debut, to not generate a Top 10 hit. This single would be the best performing of four releases topping out at #16. The album would still go platinum in the UK, but it was a bit of a bump in the road for them.

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