Saturday, August 7, 2021

"I Don't Want to Be a Hero" by Johnny Hates Jazz

Song#:  3575
Date:  07/09/1988
Debut:  76
Peak:  31
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop

Pop Bits:  The British trio scored a big international hit with their single "Shattered Dreams." It went Top 10 in many countries including the US where it reached #2 Pop and #1 AC. The song was from their debut album Turn Back the Clock as was this follow-up single. While the tune did fairly well at home in the UK reaching #11, it didn't do as well in the US where it just missed the Pop Top 30 while getting to #15 AC and #19 Dance. The title track to the album would be the trio's next single and it would make it to #5 at AC. However, it failed to make the Pop chart. It would be their last single to make it on to any US chart.

ReduxReview:  This was an appropriate follow-up to "Shattered Dreams." It kept the trio's silky, groovy sound intact and it had a good, hooky chorus. It nearly made the Top 30, but probably should have gone a bit further. I think what may have held it back a little was the lyrics. They were a little dire and political, which didn't really fit the slickness of the trio's sophisti-pop. It was a shame the title track didn't catch on at Pop. It deservedly got to the AC Top 5. It was a sweet mid-tempo tune that should have been another Top 40 entry for the trio.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Following the success of their debut album, lead singer and main songwriter Clark Datchler decided to quit the group and try for a solo career. The remaining two members decided to replace Datchler and brought Phil Thornalley on board. In the fall of '89, the new lineup issued out a single, "Turn the Tide," to try and keep momentum going, but it stalled at a low #84 in the UK. By the time they finished the album Tall Stories in 1991, it seemed like their time had past. Neither the album nor its two singles made the UK charts and that brought an end to Johnny Hates Jazz. The original trio, Datchler, Mike Nocito, and Calvin Hayes, would reunite in 2009 and play some shows. Hayes would drop out of the trio the next year. Datchler and Nocito went on to record two indie albums under the Johnny Hates Jazz moniker.

Friday, August 6, 2021

"Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)" by Cyndi Lauper

Song#:  3574
Date:  07/09/1988
Debut:  81
Peak:  54
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Lauper established herself as one of the 80s top musical acts scoring seven Top 10 hits between '83 and '86. Her quirky fashion style and bubbly personality made her stand out as well and after making several successful music videos, it seemed that a logical next step would be to expand into acting. Columbia Pictures would come calling and cast Lauper in her first feature film, the comedy/adventure flick Vibes. Obviously, to capitalize on her involvement in the film, she was asked to supply a theme song. Lauper recorded this tune that was written by Richard Orange. It was released as a single prior to the film's release. Unfortunately, it didn't connect with the pop radio audience and the song stalled near the halfway mark on the Pop chart. A soundtrack album would be released that featured the film's score by James Horner, but this track was not included. While the song was a bit of a flop in the US, it did quite well in Australia where it reached #8.

ReduxReview:  Is this one of Lauper's best songs? No, but it is not among her worst either. In fact, I've always thought it was underrated. The surf guitar along with the tune's new wave feel was a solid fit for Lauper. I thought the chorus was hooky and memorable as well. Was it prime for the Top 10? Not really, but it should have done much better. It certainly didn't help that the film was a bomb (see below). While it may be easy to pin the song's chart failure on the film's performance, I think there were other factors as well including folks getting tired of Lauper's eternal quirkiness and dime store fashion. Her personality was eclipsing the music and it seems people were over it and wanted her to mature and this song with its oddball title didn't fit that bill. I liked the song and bought the single. These days it is sort of a lost song in her catalog and has only appeared on a couple of her compilation albums that were mainly released in Australia where the song was a hit.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  For her first film, Lauper was cast in Vibes, an adventure comedy where she played a psychic named Sylvia. Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment was the production company involved and at first Howard was slated to direct, but then he dropped out and got Ken Kwapis as a replacement. It would be Kwapis' third feature film. At first, Dan Aykroyd was signed on to play the male lead. The studio then chose to bring Lauper on board for the female lead. Their first reading together didn't go well and Aykroyd decided he didn't want to work with Lauper. The studio thought she was right for the part and wanted to keep her, so Aykroyd decided to quite the picture. The studio then brought in Jeff Goldblum, who had recently starred in the hit horror flick The Fly. After the dust settled, the movie got made and it was ready for a summer release. The studio was probably banking on Lauper's star power to make the film a hit, but it wasn't meant to be. Critics panned the movie and it was virtually DOA at the box office. Its failure certainly didn't help Lauper's single. She would quickly go back to music, but over time would take roles in films and TV shows. In the 90s, she would make four appearances on the hit TV comedy Mad About You. The role would earn her an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. Combined with her two Grammy wins along with a Tony for her score to the hit musical Kinky Boots, Lauper just needs an Oscar to join the elite EGOT group.


Thursday, August 5, 2021

"Better Be Home Soon" by Crowded House

Song#:  3573
Date:  07/09/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  42
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  It would take nearly a year, but this Aussie band's self-titled debut LP finally clicked thanks to the single "Don't Dream It's Over" (#2 Pop). A second single, "Something So Strong," would also crack the Top 10 at #7. In turn, the album would be a #12 platinum seller. Lead singer/songwriter Neil Finn and his bandmates then had the arduous task of following up that success, which back home in Australia had been an even bigger hit getting to #1. Feeling pressure from the newfound fame and the band's label, Finn had difficulty trying to write songs for the album, but finally came up with enough to fill out their sophomore effort Temple of Low Men. This first single was released and in Australia it flew up to #2. The album would become their second #1, but it sold far less than their debut. In the States, this single would not do nearly as well. It stopped short of the Pop Top 10 while getting to #18 AC and #28 Rock. Another track on the album, "Never Be the Same," would briefly get to #45 Rock. No other singles would make the Pop chart. With those results, the LP would only get to #40 and fail to even reach gold certification.

ReduxReview:  This was a slightly unusual single in a couple of ways. First, it was a ballad. More often that not, an uptempo track is released first to generate attention and excitement. Perhaps due to the success of "Don't Dream It's Over," this song seemed appropriate to release. Second, it was the last track on the album. While not unheard of that a final track gets a single release, usually the first single from an album will fall within the first few songs on the album. On albums, CDs or even digital releases, it was quite common that the back half is where the "filler" tracks would reside. Even if those songs were terrific, most would not be considered single-worthy. However, in this case it was odd that the closing track was the first single. It was probably a good choice as the song is solid, but it wasn't nearly as strong or catchy as "Don't Dream It's Over." It might have done better if it was a follow-up to a hooky uptempo tune, but they just didn't have that surefire hit on the LP. With mixed reviews and minor sales, Crowded House experienced the sophomore slump in the US.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The band's debut album would go on to win three ARIA awards (the Grammy equivalent in Australia). It was nominated for Album of the Year but lost out to one of the biggest selling albums in Australian music history, John Farnham's Whispering Jack. It was sort of like going up against Michael Jackson's Thriller; everyone was going to lose. (Note that '87 was the inaugural year for the ARIAs.) However, the following year they were able to secure an Album of the Year award with Temple of Low Men, and that was even going up against Farnham's #1 follow-up Age of Reason. Crowded House's LP would generate three more ARIA wins including Song of the Year for "Better Be Home Soon." Over the years, the band would receive many more nominations and would win four more bringing their total to twelve ARIAs. In 2016, they would be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

"Spring Love (Come Back to Me)" by Stevie B

Song#:  3572
Date:  07/09/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  43
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  Stevie B's debut album Party Your Body slowly gained an audience with its first two singles, which included the #21 Dance/#80 Pop track "Dreamin' of Love." This third single would do even better and help increase interest in the LP. The song would become his first and only Top 10 on the Dance chart getting to #5. That popularity helped the song cross over to the Pop chart where it nearly made the Top 40. By September of '88, the album would top out at #78 Pop/#63 R&B. Although the album peaked fairly low, it was a consistent seller thanks to Stevie B's increased popularity and it would be certified gold later in 1990.

ReduxReview:  This track fell right in line with other freestyle songs that were popular at the time. However, all of those were by female vocal groups like Exposé, so Stevie B's brand of freestyle made him stand out a bit from the field. This track caught on well enough in the clubs to go Top 10 while nearly making the Pop Top 40. While I don't think it was as catchy as "Dreamin' of Love," there was something alluring about the layering of voices and melodies in the chorus. It was quite interesting and different from the regular dance club fare. I don't think it was hooky enough to get much further on the Pop chart, but it did the job in gathering more Stevie B fans.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Later in 2009, Stevie B would release an album titled The Terminator. It was his first album in three years. For the LP, Stevie B would record a new version of this song. For the revamp, Stevie B brought in another Miami artist to put his stamp on the track. Pitbull was just beginning to hit is stride around the time he lent a hand to Stevie B. In 2009, Pitbull would score his first Pop Top 10 album, Pitbull Starring in Rebelution (#8) and first Pop Top 10 single, "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)." His success would continue with a pair of double-platinum LPs and six more Top 10 hits including two #1s; 2011's "Give Me Everything" and 2013's "Timber."


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

"Too Much Ain't Enough Love" by Jimmy Barnes

Song#:  3571
Date:  07/09/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  91
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This rocker's first two albums were major #1 hits in his homeland of Australia. His label tried to break him in the US, but only one of his solo singles, 1986's "Working Class Man," made it on the Pop chart at a low #74 (#22 Rock). A soundtrack duet with INXS in '87, the cover tune "Good Times," did better getting to #47 (#3 Rock), but it still didn't get Barnes established in the US. Near the end of '87, Barnes was ready to release his third album, Freight Train Heart, and to kick it off this first single was released. It would become Barnes' first song to top the Aussie chart. The album then instantly became his third consecutive #1. Once again, an attempt was made to establish Barnes in the US and the track was issued out in the summer of '88. The track did well at Rock reaching #3, but it failed to catch on in a more mainstream way and therefore could only eke out a two-week stay at the bottom of the Pop chart. A follow-up single, "Driving Wheels," would make the Rock chart at #38. It would be Barnes' last time on any US chart. Back home in Australia, Barnes would become a superstar. Over the years he would amass 12 Top 10 singles and 19 Top 10 studio/live albums including 11 #1s. That was just for his solo output. From '78 to '84, Barnes was the lead singer of Cold Chisel. That band would earn 2 Top 10 singles and 5 Top 10 studio/live albums including three #1s.

ReduxReview:  This slick mid-tempo rock track had a definite Journey stamp to it thanks to the tune's writers (see below) and guitar work from Neal Schon. Had it been recorded by that superstar band, I think the single might have done better on the chart, but since it was done by a relatively unknown (for the US) artist, it just didn't get the attention it deserved. It seemed to have been promoted enough at Rock to make the Top 10, but it just didn't get pushed to pop radio as well and it fizzled. It was too bad because the song was quite good. Its slinky, midnight rock groove set a nice tone and Barnes' soulful, gravelly voice fit it well. The track was certainly different from the Springsteen-esque "Working Class Man" and I think that was a good thing. Sadly, Barnes was never able to gain a big audience in the US. He was in the same boat as another Aussie superstar from the 80s, John Farnham, who also couldn't get a break in the US.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) For his second album, 1985's For the Working Class Man (aka Jimmy Barnes in the US), Barnes worked with Journey's Jonathan Cain on a couple of tracks including "Working Class Man," which was written and produced by Cain. The pairing seemed to go well, so for Freight Train Heart they got back together and co-wrote the majority of the album, including this single. Cain produced the tracks as well. On a couple of tracks, he brought along his Journey bandmates Neal Schon and Randy Jackson (yes, of American Idol), both of whom were co-writers on this single along with Tony Brock. Two other tracks on the album were co-written and produced by hitmaker Desmond Child. With all that star power on board, it seemed like the album was primed to be a hit. It was in Australia, but the LP just didn't fully catch fire in the US.  2) This wasn't the first Jimmy Barnes to reach the US charts. In 1959, New Jersey-born gospel/soul singer Jimmy Barnes got to #14 R&B/#90 Pop with the ballad "No Regrets," which was written by Otis Blackwell (of "All Shook Up" and "Don't Be Cruel" fame). At the time, Barnes was fronting a vocal group called the Gilbraltars, however the single was only credited to Barnes. Follow-up singles didn't get anywhere and the tune became Barnes' only one to make the charts.


Monday, August 2, 2021

"My Obsession" by Icehouse

Song#:  3570
Date:  07/09/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  88
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  The Aussie band finally grabbed their one and only Pop Top 10 in the US with "Electric Blue," the second single from their album Man of Colours. The track, which was co-penned by John Oates, reached #7 (#10 Rock) with the LP getting to #43. For a follow-up single, this next song was selected. It failed to gain an audience and only spent a month at the bottom of the Pop chart. Back in Australia, the song would do much better getting to #12. In the US, this would be the last single released from the album. Back home, the LP would spawn two more Top 30 singles. Man of Colours would end up spending eleven weeks at the top of the Australian chart and would win the ARIA award (Australia's Grammy equivalent) for Album of the Year.

ReduxReview:   This was a nicely done track, but it just wasn't as big and hooky as their previous two hits. Those tracks were instantly memorable. This one needed time to sink in. Unfortunately, the US pop audience around the time was a bit impatient and if they couldn't get into a song right away, chances were good it would get ignored and this one did. While the tune wasn't destined to be a Top 10 contender, it should have done a bit better. A Top 40 appearance would have been appropriate.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Around the same time that Icehouse member Andy Qunta co-wrote the band's hit "Crazy" (#14 US Pop), he also co-wrote a huge hit for an Australian superstar. Along with Chris Thompson, Maggie Ryder, and Keith Reid, Qunta would compose "You're the Voice," a song that got recorded by Australian singer John Farnham. It would be the lead single from Farnham's 1986 album Whispering Jack and would spend 7 weeks at #1 on the Australian chart. The album would end up spending 25 weeks at the top of the chart. It would become the biggest selling album in Australia by an Aussie artist and second best selling ever ranking just under Meat Loaf's mega-hit Bat Out of Hell. Farnham was in a career rut at the time. He had been a teen idol in the late 60s/early 70s scoring several hits, but his popularity significantly waned around 1975. He became the lead singer for the Little River Band in 1983 and grabbed a hit with the US #11 "The Other Guy," but he left the band in '86 to try and reignite his solo career. He gambled a lot on rebranding himself with Whispering Jack and it paid off big time. Since then, every one of Farnham's studio albums has hit #1 or #2 in Australia. In the US, he is virtually unknown. "You're the Voice" and Whispering Jack were both issued in the US, but neither charted. However, "You're the Voice" would be reissued in the US in 1990 after "Two Strong Hearts," a single from his next album Age of Reason, got to #38 on the US AC chart. The reissue would become Farnham's only single to reach the US Pop chart peaking at #82. Rock fans in the US may be more familiar with a remake of the song. In 1991, Heart would perform the song live and it would be included on their album Rock the House Live!. That version would be issued out as a single and it would get to #20 on the Rock chart. A studio version by the band had been recorded for their 1990 album Brigade, but it was left off the final track listing. It would later be released on a hits collection.


Sunday, August 1, 2021

"Cecilia" by Times Two

Song#:  3569
Date:  07/09/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  79
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This quirky duo's debut single "Strange But True" performed well making it to #21 on the Pop chart. The bubbly track was from their album X2 as was this follow-up. Unfortunately, the cover tune didn't fare as well and it stayed in the bottom quarter of the Pop chart for only a few weeks. It didn't do much to help sales of the album, which had already stalled at a minor #137. The results apparently were not good enough for Reprise Records and soon the duo were left off of the label's roster. They got the opportunity to move over to EMI, but something was needed quickly to try and still capitalize on any momentum they had with their initial hit. An EP titled Danger Is My Business was assembled and the single "Set Me Free" pushed out in the summer of 1990. The song failed to make the pop chart but made brief appearances at Dance (#26) and R&B (#97). It seems a full album was then put together, but it ended up getting shelved. Following that disappointment, the duo split up.

ReduxReview:  I liked the duo's previous tune "Strange But True." It was a fun bubblepop track. However, I almost want to deduct points from my rating on that after hearing this goofy remake. Somehow I have a feeling that the duo didn't pick this song to cover. Probably someone at the label did. I mean...really?  "Cecilia?" Done in a weird synthpop-reggae version? Yeesh. If you are thinking "that sounds awful," then you'd be correct. I think they took the song and tried to copy what Club Nouveau did with "Lean on Me." I was definitely not a fan of that tune and this one ranks the same. The associated video is just as weird and inane. Somehow, "Lean on Me" went to #1, but by the time this cover came out, folks said no and sent it to the cutout bin. Thankfully.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally written by Paul Simon and recorded by Simon & Garfunkel. It was released as the third single from their 1970 #1 album Bridge Over Troubled Water. It would reach #4 and go gold. The song has been covered by many artists, but thus far the only other act to reach the US Pop chart with the it has been Times Two. However, the song did become a hit in the UK for another artist. Graham McPherson, aka Suggs, was the lead singer of the UK ska band Madness, who had a major international hit in 1983 with "Our House" (#7 US Pop). In 1995, Suggs released his first solo album titled The Lone Ranger. The LP featured two UK Top 10 hits including a remake of "Cecilia." Suggs' version became his biggest solo hit reaching #4. Guesting on the track were the UK ragga duo of Louchie Lou & Michie One who a couple years earlier reached the UK Top 10 with a cover tune. "Shout (It Out)" (#7) was their take on The Isley Brothers' 1962 classic "Shout."