Saturday, July 17, 2021

"I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That" by Elton John

Song#:  3555
Date:  06/17/1988
Debut:  60
Peak:  2
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Rock


Pop Bits:  Elton John certainly had some ups and downs throughout the 80s, but it was his 1986 album Leather Jackets that proved to be his worst moment. With no Top 40 hit singles, the LP became the lowest peaking studio album of his career to-date stopping at a minor #91. A double-LP of an Australian concert tour would follow and it would go platinum thanks to the surprise #6 single of the live version of his classic "Candle in the Wind." Still, all was not rosy. He had to undergo throat surgery for polyps (successful) and he was dealing with a libel case against the British tabloid The Sun (he won). In addition, some music writers and critics were not necessarily being kind at the time as it seemed that his best days were behind him. It was a good time to start anew so John switched labels from Geffen to RCA and set out to make a comeback album. Along for the ride was his longtime writing partner Bernie Tapuin and producer Chris Thomas, who had worked on John's most successful albums of the 80s. While not necessarily a return to form, Reg Strikes Back was certainly a more concentrated effort and both John and the label hyped it as a comeback. This first single was released and it would end up doing very well becoming his highest peaking solo single on the Pop chart for the 80s. It would also reach #1 AC, #7 Dance, and #13 Rock. In turn, the album would get John back up in the Top 20 again (#16) and it would go gold. While the LP wasn't an overwhelming success, it did the job of digging John out of the rut he was in and it showed that he could remain relevant in the changing musical landscape of the 80s.

ReduxReview:  This groovy tune was kind of hard to resist. That 80s finger snap/snare sound drove it along while the chorus was quite hooky and memorable with "whoa-oh's" helping out. Plus John sold the tune well with both his vocals and his piano playing. I don't think he and Taupin could have come up with a better song to get back on the charts. The album was hit-n-miss, but it was miles ahead of his previous two studio efforts. I think it showed that if John is energized and truly wants to make some good music, he can do it. He had something to prove with Reg Strikes Back and for the most part he succeeded.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The Reg Strike Back album contains a bit of an oddity. It has a sequel track. John is certainly not the first artist to write a sequel to one of their own songs, but the practice is definitely not common; and what makes John's stand out is that he wrote the sequel fifteen years after the first song. In 1972, John and Bernie Tapuin co-wrote "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters." It was a track for what would be John's first US #1 album Honky Château. The song's lyrics were basically about New York City and a time when Taupin first visited the city and heard gun shots near his hotel. While the track was not released as a single, it became a fan favorite. Several artists would record their own version of the song including Heart, Indigo Girls, Mandy Moore, The Killers, and Maren Morris. For whatever reason, John and Taupin decided to revisit the NYC theme again and came up with "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (Part Two)." While the original version was more of a ballad, the follow-up was a tougher uptempo tune. In many of his concerts following the release of Reg Strikes Back, John would perform both songs in sequence.

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Friday, July 16, 2021

"The Twist (Yo, Twist!)" by The Fat Boys with Chubby Checker

Song#:  3554
Date:  06/17/1988
Debut:  79
Peak:  16
Weeks: 15
Genre: Hip-Hop


Pop Bits:  The Fat Boys hit a career high with their fourth LP Crushin'. It would be a #8 Pop/#4 R&B platinum album thanks to their collaboration with The Beach Boys on the old hit "Wipeout." That track would get to #10 at R&B while reaching #12 Pop. The nostalgia of the old tune along with The Beach Boys expanded The Fat Boys' audience and so for their next album, Coming Back Hard Again, they decided to visit that well once more to see if lightning could strike twice. This first single, a revamped version of "The Twist," would be issued out. While the song wouldn't do quite as well as "Wipeout," it would still get inside the Pop Top 20 while making it to #40 at R&B. It would help the album go gold, but it seemed that listeners were quickly getting tired with the formula.

ReduxReview:  Hey, if it worked once, why not try it again? Sadly, The Fat Boys did try it again. After "Wipeout," they had a prime opportunity to come up with something catchy and original to both establish their sound and further their career, but instead they relied on the same "Wipeout" gimmick. This time the victim was Chubby Checker and his signature song. As if to remind people that they did this before, The Fat Boys even start their version of "The Twist" with the opening cackle from "Wipeout." Actually, I don't hate this track as much as I did "Wipeout" and I think that is mainly because Checker is on it singing his own song (with a few added/updated lyrics). Still, it ended up being more silly than fun and it continued to pigeonhole The Fat Boys as more of a comedy/novelty act rather than actual hip hop artists.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This song featured vocals by Chubby Checker, who had famously recorded the song in 1960. While the song is highly associated with Checker, he wasn't the first to record the tune. While the roots of the song came from or were inspired by other tunes, singer/songwriter Hank Ballard created "The Twist" and recorded an early version in 1958. A formal version of the track was recorded later that year. It got relegated to the b-side of another song, but late in '59 it began to get airplay. As the song was taking off, it got the attention of Dick Clark, who wanted to get the song on American Bandstand. However, for a large national audience, Clark wasn't sure Ballard's more suggestive performances and previous bawdy songs were right for the show, so he decided to find a singer like Ballard and have a local label record the tune. Through auditions he found Earnest Evans, soon to go by the name of Chubby Checker, and got him to record a near identical version of "The Twist."  In 1960, Checker would perform his version on American Bandstand. That exposure boosted the song and Checker's single version began to fly off shelves. It would end up hitting #1 Pop/#2 R&B. Unfortunately, Checker's version overshadowed Ballard's original and that single stalled at #28 Pop/#16 R&B. However, that is not the end of the story. While teenagers were the ones to initially do the twist and buy the record, as time went on more adults began to catch on to the dance craze. It caused the song to become popular again and early in '62 the single was reissued. Not only did the song get back on the chart, but it went to #1 for a second time. It still remains the only song to reach #1 twice during two separate chart runs.

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

"Say It's Gonna Rain" by Will to Power

Song#:  3553
Date:  06/17/1988
Debut: 85
Peak:  49
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Freestyle


Pop Bits:  This project headed up by Bob Rosenberg first reached the charts in '87 with the single "Dreamin'." Epic Records picked up the tune for national distribution and it got to #50 Pop and #15 Dance. The label was encouraged by the result and asked for a full album. Rosenberg got right to work on more material mainly working with session musicians. A self-titled debut album would be released in March of '88, but this second single wouldn't get pushed out until May. Despite the long delay, the song was greeted well in clubs and the track would end up topping the Dance chart. It would cross over to Pop, but would only get one notch higher than their first single. The lack of a more mainstream hit left the album floundering, but that would change after the release of a third single.

ReduxReview:  I guess with "Dreamin'" doing fairly well, Epic perhaps tossed Rosenberg some money as the production on this track is much better. The song is a bit better too, but not by much. The refrain of the tune, which is basically a take on the old childhood taunt "na-na-na-na-na-na," is both catchy and a irritating. It was also nearly the same as the chorus to The Jets' "Cross My Broken Heart." The recycled taunt made for a memorable chorus and that along with the freestyle beat helped the song top the Dance chart. However, there was nothing else meaty or interesting with the track. Compared to some of the other freestyle tracks hitting around this time, this still sounded a little simplistic and not quite right for mass consumption.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Before branching out to making his own music, Bob Rosenberg was a popular mix DJ for the Miami radio station WHQT (Hot 105) along with being a DJ for events. In 1985, the TV show Miami Vice was reaching its peak of popularity. Rosenberg got the idea to create a rap record that was inspired by the show and its theme. At the time, Miami Vice was getting known for its use of popular songs. It's theme song by Jan Hammer would even become a #1 hit. Whether or not Rosenberg developed the track hoping it might get picked up by the show is unknown, but he got it recorded. He co-produced the track with Lewis A. Martineé, who was just about to make it big with the female vocal trio Exposé. The single "Miami Vice" was issued out and credited to Vigilante. It seems like it sold a few copies and gained some local fans, and apparently MCA Records (the TV show's soundtrack label) came calling. Unfortunately, it wasn't in a good way. It seems copyright infringement was bantered about and that pretty much squashed the Vigilante single. Despite that, you can still find posts of the single up to hear on YouTube.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

"When You Walk in a Room" by Paul Carrack

Song#:  3552
Date:  06/18/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  90
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Rock


Pop Bits:  Carrack's One Good Reason would be his most successful solo album in the US. It would reach #67 mainly on the strength of its first single, the #9 "Don't Shed a Tear." The title track would serve as the second single and would crack the Pop Top 30. With that result, the label decided to push out a third single and this cover tune would be selected for release. The song had been released in '87 in the UK as the LP's first single, but it only made it to #48. It would end up just being a blip on the US Pop chart spending a minor few weeks at the bottom. The song did become a hit in Australia reaching #7.

ReduxReview:  Carrack takes an oldie from the 60s (see below) and gives it a late 80s makeover. I liked what he did with the tune. There was a retro feel to it all, yet the production and the more rock-oriented arrangement made it sound fresh and modern. Unfortunately like DeShannon's original, it barely made the Pop chart. It really should have done much better (DeShannon's should have as well).

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally written and recorded by Jackie DeShannon. It was first released as the b-side to another song in 1963, but then it was changed to the a-side in '64. It got on the Pop chart, but only for one week at #99. With that result, the song might have quickly faded into obscurity, but it got picked up and recorded by the UK band The Searchers. Their 1964 single would be a hit in the UK getting to #3. In the US the song would crack the Top 40 at #35. With the song now reaching a larger audience, other artists would begin to do their own cover versions. While Carrack would be the only other artist to get the song on the US Pop chart, two other singers would have success with it on the US Country chart. Stephanie Winslow, who had a string of Top 40 Country entries in the late 70s/early 80s would record a version that reached #29. Later in '94, Pam Tillis would put out her take on the song. It would reach #2 on the Country chart. It was one of four Top 10 hits from her album Sweetheart's Dance, which would prove to be her most successful studio LP reaching #6 (#51 Pop) and going platinum.  2) The background/duet vocal on this song was done by Linda Taylor. Taylor was an in-demand session singer in the UK. Carrack most likely had a connection to Taylor because she had also worked on the 1985 debut album of Mike + the Mechanics, of which Carrack was a member. Taylor would attempt a solo career of her own. In 1982, she would record a debut album titled Taylor Made. It wouldn't get anywhere, but it did include the #13 US Dance chart entry "You and Me Just Started" (which is a really good post-disco dance track).

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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

"Knocked Out" by Paula Abdul

Song#:  3551
Date:  06/18/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  41
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Dance-Pop


Pop Bits:  This now-famous dancer/singer/choreographer/TV personality got a lucky break when she was virtually plucked from obscurity to work with one of the hottest acts in music. In 1984, Abdul was one of the Laker Girls, the cheerleading squad for the NBA's L.A. Lakers. She was also the lead choreographer for the squad. The story goes that somehow she started dating Jackie Jackson (of The Jacksons), who was actually married at the time. When The Jacksons began shooting the video to their 1984 song "Torture," Jackie got Abdul hired in as a dancer. However, she never showed up. According to the video's original choreographer Perri Lister (in the book I Want My MTV), when it came time to show steps to Jackie, he showed up with Paula and Lister was told that Abdul wanted to do the choreography. Lister then took her paycheck and left. Abdul's work on the video along with her "in" to the Jackson family then led to her famously working with Janet Jackson on three of her videos from Control along with The Jacksons for their Victory tour. Yet being a successful choreographer wasn't enough. Abdul had ambitions to become a star herself and decided to give singing a go even though she was untrained and had no background in doing vocal work. She arranged to do a demo and convinced Virgin Records to sign her up. Abdul began to work on an album with various songwriters and producers. The first track she recorded was "Knocked Out," a tune written by Daryl Simmons, L.A. Reid and Babyface, and produced by Reid and Babyface. It was initially put on a Virgin Records sampler disc and then pushed out as a single to see how well Abdul might do. It did surprisingly well at R&B where the song got to #8. It also reached #14 at Dance. Over on the Pop chart, it fared less well topping out at the dreaded #41 position. Still, the results gave Abdul the opportunity to finish off her debut LP Forever Your Girl.

ReduxReview:  This was nearly a lost album thanks to the label not really knowing what to do and how to promote Abdul. I'm sure they thought that if this Reid/Babyface production didn't hit, then the album was most likely doomed. It seemed they put all their eggs in this one basket counting on this track to hit and when it didn't click in a more mainstream way, they basically shrugged and moved on. But sometimes an album is just destined to be a hit and the universe will make it happen somehow. Forever Your Girl was one of those discs, but it would take three singles and some radio intervention to get there. As for this track, it was good effort from Reid and Babyface, although it sounded like a lesser "Girlfriend." It also had more of an R&B feel, which really didn't fit Abdul and I think that came across in the song. No one sounded fully committed or comfortable. It surprisingly caught on at R&B, but it just wasn't the standout track Abdul needed to break on the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Apparently, Abdul's first time in the studio after her record deal was not a great experience. Reid and Babyface were songwriting and production pros who were really starting to make it big. That made them an in-demand team, which meant they didn't have a ton of time to work with artists and get things recorded. So when the novice vocalist Abdul showed up to sing their tune it seems the pair got a little frustrated. It was taking a long time to get a good vocal from her and they didn't necessarily hold her hand and sympathetically guide her along. According to another producer who would work with Abdul on her debut album, it seems Reid and Babyface basically got what they could from Abdul and then just dismissed her saying that they would finish it up by themselves. The experience left Abdul in a bit of a state and leery about her next studio experience. Luckily, she met up with songwriters/producers Oliver Lieber and Elliot Wolff both of whom would create atmospheres in the studio that allowed Abdul to grow and gain experience. In fact, it would be their songs that would turn Forever Your Girl into one of the biggest debut albums in music history.

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Monday, July 12, 2021

"Boom! There She Was" by Scritti Politti featuring Roger

Song#:  3550
Date:  06/18/1988
Debut:  95
Peak:  53
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul


Pop Bits:  This British band broke through at home with their 1985 album Cupid & Psyche 85. It would be a #5 gold record thanks to a pair of Top 10 hits including the #10 "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)." In the States, they would also do well with the single "Perfect Way" reaching #11 and the album getting to #50. It would take them three years to finally issue a follow up and hopefully beat the sophomore slump. While Provision would be less successful, it still performed fairly well in the UK getting to #8 and becoming their second gold LP. Its first single, "Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry for Loverboy)," would top out at #13. In the States, a different song was slated for the first single. "Boom! There She Was," a collaboration with Roger ("I Want to Be Your Man," #3 Pop), got issued out. It received some attention reaching #12 Dance and nearly cracking the top half of the Pop chart. Nothing else from the LP charted and that left it peaking at a minor #113. After everything from the album wrapped up, the band went on hiatus; one that would last over a decade. They would release albums in 1999 and 2006. Neither performed well on the charts.

ReduxReview:  This song was nearly there. The chorus could have been a bit stronger, but what truly holds back the track is the production. Lead singer Green Gartside's vocals are so buried in the mix that you can't even understand him. The melody and chorus are totally lost. Roger's talk box parts are also under the radar too. I can hear that something good could have come of this tune, but the execution nearly killed it. A top-notch producer and a stronger singer could have turned this into a hit. Instead it turned into a missed opportunity.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Band member and co-songwriter David Gamson wouldn't sit idle during the break following Provision. He would write and produce music for other artists including Luther Vandross, Sheila E, Roger, and George Benson. He would also produce the first two albums by Meshell Ndegeocello, both of which were nominated for Grammys. Gamson's biggest success as a songwriter came when he co-wrote "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" with Jörgen Elofsson, and Ali Tamposi. The song was originally pitched to Leona Lewis, but she turned it down. It was then suggested to Kelly Clarkson. She liked the tune and brought it to producer Greg Kurstin. He made additions to the last verse, which got him a writing credit, and got it recorded with Clarkson. It would be released in 2012 as the second single from her album Stronger. The song would become Clarkson's third #1. It also topped both the AC and Dance charts.

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Sunday, July 11, 2021

"Joy" by Teddy Pendergrass

Song#:  3549
Date:  06/18/1988
Debut:  96
Peak:  77
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B, Soul


Pop Bits:  Pendergrass' official comeback album following the '82 car crash that left him paralyzed, Love Language, became a gold seller thanks to the #5 R&B/#46 hit "Hold Me," which featured a then-unknown Whitney Houston. A follow-up album, Workin' It Back, didn't sell as well despite featuring the #6 R&B hit "Love 4/2." To keep relevant, the soul superstar needed to update his sound a bit and so he was connected up with the Calloway brothers of Midnight Star who had been having success writing and producing for other artists like The Whispers and Klymaxx. The pair would work with Pendergrass on a couple of songs for his tenth studio album, which included this title track and first single. The tune would be a big hit at R&B becoming Pendergrass' second career #1. That action helped the song cross over to the Pop chart, but it only hung around in the bottom quarter for a few weeks. It also got to #42 Dance. A second single, "2 A.M.," would get to #3 R&B, but fail to reach the Pop chart. The pair of hits helped the album get to #2 R&B and #54 Pop. It would become a gold seller. "Joy" would earn Pendergrass a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.

ReduxReview:  The Calloway's did a solid job for Pendergrass. They set him up with a fresh R&B groove and production that was in-step with the current trends in music, yet didn't stray too far from Pendergrass' sound. Pendergrass sounded comfortable and terrific as usual. While the song was a good fit for R&B, it wasn't necessarily the right song for pop radio, which usually demanded a more pronounced and hooky chorus. Still, enough fans showed up to make the album his last gold seller.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Pendergrass would continue to record and his next LP would spawn his third and final R&B #1, 1991's "It Should've Been You." The hits would taper off after that. In 1997, he would record his last regular studio album, You and I. A single from the LP, "Don't Keep Wastin' My Time," would be his last to reach the Pop chart at #90 (#39 R&B). Its follow-up would be his last single to make the R&B chart. His final album would be a 2002 live concert recording titled From Teddy, With Love (#63 R&B). Along the way, he would earn two more Grammy nominations bringing his total to five. He continued to perform until 2006 when he decided to retired from the business. After a 2009 surgery for colon cancer, Pendergrass would develop respiratory issues. Seven months later he would pass away.

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