Saturday, September 4, 2021

"Fallen Angel" by Poison

Song#:  3603
Date:  06/30/1988
Debut:  73
Peak:  12
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Glam Rock


Pop Bits:  Poison earned a second Pop Top 10 hit with "Nothin' But a Good Time," the lead single from their second album Open Up and Say...Ahh! The hit helped the album get to #2 and quickly turn platinum. For a follow up single, this next track was selected. It would nearly get Poison their third Pop Top 10, but it stopped just short at #12. The tune didn't fare as well at Rock where the song stalled at #32. Still, it was enough for the album to reach the double platinum mark a few weeks before this song reached its peak on the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This was a good follow-up to "Nothin' But a Good Time." It was well done glam rock with hooks that leaned towards commercial pop/rock. Combined with a video that reflected the story in the lyrics,  it was easy to predict that the tune would either make or get near the Pop Top 10. For some reason, rock radio wasn't on the Poison band wagon. This was only their second single to get on that chart and it peaked quite low.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The video for this song featured Susie Hatton as a young woman leaving a small town in search of fame in Los Angeles. At the time, Hatton was the girlfriend of Poison's lead singer Brett Michaels. She was a model and an aspiring actress and singer. It seems like her connection to Michaels helped her get a chance at a singing career. Hatton would get signed to Giant Records and work on a debut album that would be titled Body & Soul. Released in 1991, all the LP's songs were co-written by Hatton and Michaels along with Pat Schunk and Mark Konrad. Michaels produced all the tracks. Despite the involvement of Michaels, the album came and went quickly. Hatton would be dropped from Giant and it seems she didn't pursue another deal. It wasn't long after that she and Michaels would end their relationship.

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Friday, September 3, 2021

"A Nightmare on My Street" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince

Song#:  3602
Date:  06/30/1988
Debut:  74
Peak:  15
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Hip-Hop, Rap


Pop Bits:  The duo's second album, He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, would be their mainstream breakthrough reaching #4 Pop and #5 R&B thanks to a pair of hits. First, "Parents Just Don't Understand" would make it to #10 R&B and #12 Pop. It would end up being a gold-selling single. Then this follow-up would do similar business getting to #9 R&B and #15 Pop. The two songs helped sell albums and by September of '88 it would be certified double-platinum. In 1995, it would reach the triple-platinum mark.

ReduxReview:  If I hadn't heard tracks from Run-D.M.C. and LL Cool J, maybe I would have liked DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince; or maybe not. Their brand of rap/hip-hop bordered on novelty to me and because of that some of their tunes were kind of fun the first time around, but they quickly got stale and annoying. I think what they did was perfect for a younger crowd (and their parents). For folks who had heard rap tracks by the artists I mention above and others, the duo's work already sounded a bit antiquated. These days, some rap considered old school is still fun to hear and continues to be influential, but tracks like this one from JJ & FP have virtually disappeared becoming nostalgic novelties. This Nightmare-influenced track certainly hasn't aged well. It was silly when it came out and it is even worse now.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This song is basically a tribute/take on the horror film franchise A Nightmare on Elm Street and its famous villain Freddy Krueger and it happened to be written and recorded around the time that the fourth film in the series, subtitled The Dream Master, was in production. Oddly enough, the film's production company and rights owner New Line Cinema was contemplating having a rap act do a theme song for the film along with an associated video. The duo's record label, Jive, contacted New Line about a song the pair had written and were hoping they could do a video that would be released in conjunction with the film. At the same time, New Line was in talks with The Fat Boys to do the theme. Despite that, New Line extended an offer to Jive for the JJ&FP track but they turned it down as the financial portion was too low. New Line then signed on The Fat Boys who came up with "Are You Ready for Freddy." Meanwhile, the He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper album was released, which included the track. New Line noticed and looked into legal action for copyright infringement. To make things worse, the duo filmed a music video of their song that included a Freddy Krueger lookalike. It got aired a few times on MTV, but the channel pulled it once they were notified of a potential lawsuit. In the end, a settlement was agreed upon between New Line and Jive. Some finances were exchanged and future pressings of the album had to include a disclaimer stating "A Nightmare on My Street" was in no way associated with the Nightmare franchise. In addition, all copies of the video had to be destroyed. The agreement also had New Line offering DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince options to star in two films, both of which they turned down. One of those films was House Party, which then got cast with Kid 'n Play and was a hit. In an odd twist, Kid 'n Play were initially pitched a TV series, which eventually became The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air starring - the Fresh Prince Will Smith. The video for "A Nightmare on My Street" was seemingly lost forever and even personal copies that the duo had got lost along the way. However, in 2018 someone discovered they had taped MTV during a time that the video aired and put it out on YouTube. It later got taken down, but at least a copy of it still survives.

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Thursday, September 2, 2021

"Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  3601
Date:  07/30/1988
Debut:  83
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack


Pop Bits:  This New York-born vocalist quickly made a name for himself in the jazz world with his unique abilities. McFerrin would perform songs a cappella, yet somehow managed to imitate other instruments to make it sound like he is being accompanied by other musicians. His expertise in specific techniques of vocal work got him noticed and by 1982 he had released his first album. While the album featured some of McFerrin's specialized work, several of the tracks he performed with a rhythm section. Two years later, he would step away from working with other musicians for The Voice, which only featured McFerrin's vocals. It was highly regarded and other work would follow including arranging and performing on the 1985 Manhattan Transfer track "Another Night in Tunisia," which earned McFerrin two Grammys. Spontaneous Inventions would follow in '86. It featured a few guest performers including Robin Williams. However, it would be this little ditty that McFerrin wrote for his fourth album Simple Pleasures that would rocket him to stardom. The a cappella track with its upbeat message and hooky passages had the world whistling. Even its title became a sort of catchphrase. Released as a single, it would also be featured in the hit Tom Cruise film Cocktail and on the associated soundtrack. The unusual tune took over radio and soon it was climbing the charts. Eventually it would reach #7 AC and #11 R&B while becoming the first a cappella song to reach #1 on the Pop chart. The hit would help the Coctail soundtrack get to #2 and sell over four million copies while McFerrin's Simple Pleasures album would hit #5 and go platinum. The song would win McFerrin three Grammys including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. Seemingly out of nowhere, this one man vocal band became a major music celebrity. McFerrin would be a true one-hit wonder with this #1 hit being his only one to make the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Yes, I admit it. Back in the day I liked this track. It was a silly, fun tune that was undeniably catchy and the fact that it was all McFerrin's overdubbed voice make it even quirkier. It got played on so many radio stations that even my dad would whistle the tune and tell folks "don't worry, be happy." It was just one of those strange songs in music history that came along, hit big, made a star out of the performer, and then later found itself on many "worst song" lists. In other words, it was a faddish phenomenon. The fact that it won Record and Song of the Year Grammys made it even more famous (or infamous). While the tune was fun for a while, I quickly got tired of it. Soon it became annoying, and then nearly unbearable. Just the mere hint of the opening whistle and "klook-klooks" would send me lunging towards the dial to change the station. These days I appreciate it for what it was; just a lark of a tune that beat the odds and made it to #1. I certainly don't clamor to hear it and if I do I may even roll my eyes a bit, but I'll let it play out. However, I'm still a little peeved about the Grammy wins over far more deserving songs like Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car."

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  McFerrin had Grammys, a #1 hit, and a platinum album. He could basically write his own ticket anywhere and try to seize the moment, but he did the opposite. McFerrin basically stepped aside and let the song do its thing before heading out on a new musical adventure. It seems he didn't want to do or be forced into replicating his success. McFerrin wanted to pursue other musical adventures. Having the hit was very unexpected and it sort of threw him for a loop. Therefore, he stepped away from music for a while to figure out what he wanted to do next. He would later make guest appearances with other artists, write and perform scores for film and TV, and would even be a guest conductor with several major orchestras. He would also develop a 10-person vocal group called Voicestra that would be featured on his 1990 album Medicine Man. Along the way he would add to his Grammy collection. In all, McFerrin would win 10 Grammys from 18 nominations. Still, the vast majority of folks will remember him for this song, which got him tagged as a one-hit wonder.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

"Mary, Mary" by Run-D.M.C.

Song#:  3600
Date:  07/30/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  75
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rap-Rock


Pop Bits:  The legendary rap trio's career would reach its peak with the 1986 album Raising Hell (#1 R&B/#3 Pop). It would end up selling over three million copies thanks to the gold-selling crossover hit "Walk This Way" (#4 Pop/#8 R&B). The success put a lot of pressure on the trio to come up with something that would perform as well or better and they answered back with Tougher Than Leather.  Its first single, "Run's House," got released in April of '88 and would do well at R&B getting to #10 (#40 Dance), but it failed to make the Pop chart. Despite the single not hitting in a more mainstream way, fans showed up and bought the album. In June it would peak at #2 R&B and the following month it would top out at #9 Pop and also be certified platinum. This second single was then pushed out and while it would get Run-D.M.C. back on the Pop chart, it didn't do all that well. It would only get a quarter of the way up the chart while peaking at #29 R&B and #18 Dance. A third single, "I'm Not Going Out Like That" could only manage a #40 showing at R&B. The lack of a better crossover single kept the album from the multi-platinum sales level of their previous effort. Although considered a bit of a disappointment back in the day both with sales and critics, the LP itself has grown in stature over the years with retrospective reviews handing out more praise. Their next LP, Back to Hell, would be a critical and commercial failure (#16 R&B/#81 Pop), but after getting their act together they released 1993's Down with the King, which went gold (#1 R&B/#7 Pop) thanks to the title track getting to #1 Rap/#9 R&B/#21 Pop. They would do one more album in 2001 before disbanding due to the murder of member Jason Mizell in 2002. In 2009, the trio would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the second rap act to achieve that feat.

ReduxReview:  The trio was obviously looking for another "Walk This Way" and decided to give "Mary, Mary" the rock-rap treatment with producer Rick Rubin. I think it worked out well, but it was missing two key ingredient that helped "Walk This Way" become a hit. First was the original artist. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry appeared on "Walk This Way" and it gave a little rock cred to the tune that boosted the tune's appeal. While The Monkees were not going to reunite just for this song, it might have been cool to get Mickey Dolenz to appear on the track as he is the one who did the lead vocal for The Monkees' version. Instead, Run-D.M.C. decided to sample Dolenz and the song. The second problem was that "Walk This Way" had been a hit and was a rock classic whereas The Monkees' "Mary, Mary" was not a hit (or even a single), so it was far less recognizable. Still, I thought it was a fun, catchy track and it should have done much better. However, had it been a big hit, it might have put Run-D.M.C. in a corner and they might have gotten tagged as rap remake artists.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is rap-rock remake of a song that was made famous by The Monkees. The song was heard in five different episodes of The Monkees TV show and was included on their second album, the 1967 #1 More of the Monkees. It was not officially released as a single in the US, but it was featured as one of those cut-out records that appeared on the back of cereal boxes in the 60s/70s. "Mary, Mary" appeared on a 33-1/2 speed "record" with three other Monkees songs on the back of Post Honey Combs cereal. Although the song was written by band member Mike Nesmith, The Monkees were not the first to record the song. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band picked up the tune in 1966 and recorded it for their second album, East-West (#65 Pop). It was not released as a single.  2) In addition to the Tougher Than Leather album, a movie by the same name starring Run-D.M.C. was released. Co-written and directed by Rick Ruben, the music drama focused on the trio trying to find the killer of a close friend. The Beastie Boys made an appearance in the flick, which was not a critical or box office success.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

"Skin Deep" by Cher

Song#:  3599
Date:  06/30/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  79
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Dance-Pop


Pop Bits:  Cher's self-titled 1987 album was a major comeback effort that would become her first gold album since 1979. It reached #32 thanks to a pair of Pop Top 20 hits including the #10 "I Found Someone." A third single was called for and this track was selected. Apparently it wasn't quite what pop radio was looking for and the tune stalled low on the chart after only a month. It also made a brief appearance on the Dance chart at #41. It would be the final single released from the LP. The success of the album reestablished Cher as a viable hit maker and it gave her the opportunity to do even better with her next effort.

ReduxReview:  Obviously, this wasn't the right choice for a single as it pretty much tanked. I think that was because the LP's first two singles were more rock oriented and expectations were that a third track would follow suit. Instead, this dance-pop confection was released and it just didn't fit in with the sound that got Cher back on the chart. Was it a bad song? Not at all. It was a pretty good dance-pop tune that perhaps for another artist might have served them well. For Cher, it just wasn't the right track for a single. I thought for sure the label would issue out "Bang-Bang," Cher's remake of her own 1966 #2 hit "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)." Produced by Desmond Child along with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, the track was given a huge late-80s rock production and it was pretty great. If it had been paired with a cool MTV video, I think it would have gotten near the Pop Top 10. But for some reason, the label screwed up and picked this weaker track and the results spoke for themselves. A missed opportunity.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Mark Goldenberg and Jon Lind with Lind producing. The song was first recorded by a Japanese singer/songwriter that, like Cher, used a mononym. Mayumi Yamamoto would write and record under the singular name of Cindy. She spent time in the early 80s writing and doing background vocals for other artists before being courted by the Japanese label Kitty Records. It seems the label had some connections and was able to get Cindy hooked up with Stevie Wonder, who would write one song for her 1986 debut LP Love Life and perform on two. The album had an eye towards a more global release with all tracks being sung in English. In addition to the Wonder-penned song, two by Jon Lind were selected. One that he wrote himself and then "Skin Deep," his co-write with Goldenberg. The Wonder song, "Think Your Love Away," was issued out as a single. It seems the single and album got nowhere in Japan and that halted Cindy's time at Kitty Records. She would go on to record two more albums in '90 and '91, but her biggest success came as a songwriter. She wrote several songs for Japanese singer/actress Miho Nakayama. Three songs that Cindy had a hand in writing would be released as singles. Two would make it to #1 while the other reached #3. Cindy passed away from cancer in 2001.

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Monday, August 30, 2021

"Chains of Love" by Erasure

Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  3598
Date:  07/30/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  12
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Synthpop


Pop Bits:  Musician and songwriter Vince Clarke had scored four UK Top 10 hits between '81 and '83. Oddly, he got those hits as a member of three different bands; Depeche Mode, Yazoo, and The Assembly. He was a founding member of all three outfits, but it seems that Clarke had trouble seeing eye-to-eye with his bandmates. Even though he was having success, Clarke just hadn't found the right collaborator with which he could remain with for more than just a year or two. That finally changed when Clarke met Andy Bell through an advertisement Clarke had placed in a music magazine. The pair hit it off and in '85 they signed on with Mute Records and work began on a debut album that would be titled Wonderland. Expectations were high for the release due to Clarke's previous hits, but after three singles that performed poorly on the UK singles chart, the album stalled at a low #71. Undeterred, the pair moved forward with their next album, 1987's The Circus. Its first single, "Sometimes," provided them with the breakthrough they needed. It peaked at #2 and was the first of three Top 10s from the LP, which got to #6. In the US, the singles from The Circus would do well in clubs with three songs making the Dance Top 10 including the #1 "Victim of Love," but they were shut out of mainstream radio and the album tanked at #190. Clarke and Bell then solidified their musical partnership with a third album titled The Innocents. It would end up being their most successful studio LP reaching #1 in the UK and going double-platinum. In the US, the duo would finally breakthrough with this single from the album. After peaking at #4 on the Dance chart, the song began to cross over to Pop and catch on. It would stop just short of the Top 10. The hit helped the album get to #49. With Bell, Clarke had finally found the right collaborator and The Innocents seemed to seal the deal. They have remained together over the long haul and in 2020 released their eighteenth studio album The Neon (#4 UK).

ReduxReview:  By the mid- to late-80s, I think true synthpop was a real hard sell for the US pop audience. Of course artists were utilizing a lot of synths, drum machines, and samplers in their productions, but many were using them as enhancements rather than using them for nearly everything. So Erasure's full-on synthpop sound wasn't what was in favor at the time, except in the dance clubs. To get more mainstream action, they needed a song so irresistible that pop music fans and radio just could not ignore it. That song finally arrived with this track. With hooks galore including the opening line, the song was pure ear candy. The bouncy groove drove the soulful tune while Bell's falsetto helped carry the infectious chorus. The gay subtext was lost on a lot of folks, but that was okay. Bell had a way of cleverly weaving around the subject without being blatant. I loved this song from the get-go and got the album as soon as I could. It quickly became a favorite and one of those that I listen to at least once a year. The pair would go on to do some excellent work, but they were at their peak with The Innocents and this hit, which not only should have gone Top 10, but straight to #1.

ReduxRating10/10

Trivia:  Although Erasure's time on the US Pop chart would be limited, they were highly successful on the US Dance chart. From 1985 through to 2007, the duo would score eighteen Top 10 hits on the Dance chart including two #1s.  They would also have good success on the new 1988 Billboard chart initially titled Modern Rock Tracks (later Alternative Songs, then Alternative Airplay) getting six Top 20 entries including three Top 10s. At home in the UK, they would earn seventeen Top 10s. They would only ever reach #1 once; and it wasn't even a single. In the UK an EP was considered a single and would chart as such whereas in the US it was considered an album. In 1992, Erasure did an EP of ABBA covers titled Abba-esque. With their popularity high and ABBA songs highly regarded, the EP flew off shelves and made it to #1 on the UK singles chart. In the US, the EP was far less successful. As there were no singles released to promote it, the EP stalled at #85 on the album chart.

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Sunday, August 29, 2021

"Don't Be Cruel" by Cheap Trick

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3597
Date:  07/30/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  4
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Rock


Pop Bits:  The band's album Lap of Luxury was a significant comeback for them after a series of disappointing efforts. Its lead-off single, the power ballad "The Flame," became Cheap Trick's first to reach #1 on the Pop chart. For a follow-up, this cover tune was selected. It would do well at Rock getting to #8 while also making it to #32 at AC. On the Pop chart, the song would become their third overall Top 10 hit. It would also be the first time that Cheap Trick would get back-to-back Top 10s from one album. Lap of Luxury would peak at #16 and go platinum. It was their first LP since 1979 to reach that sales level.

ReduxReview:  Cheap Trick's fairly faithful remake of Elvis' hit was a real roll of the dice for a single. It could have easily tanked with kids just not getting the retro-style tune. However, it seems that nostalgia prevailed and fans of the band along with Elvis aficionados took it to heart and helped to push it into the Top 10. Was it an inspired remake? No, but it was serviceable and the tune weathered the updated 80s production. It played well on the radio and it got a little bit of a kickstart thanks to "The Flame" hitting #1.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by Elvis Presley. Written by Otis Blackwood, Presley recorded the song July 2, 1956. It was issued out as a single eleven days later with "Hound Dog" on the flip side. With both songs gaining popularity, the record would be considered a double-sided single. On August 18, 1956, the two songs would reach #1. The single would remain at the top of the chart for 11 weeks, which was the longest streak for a song since the rock era began in 1955. However, this was before the Billboard Hot 100 chart was established in 1958. At the time, Elvis' single spent its time at #1 on the "Best Sellers" list, which historically has been considered the main chart prior to the Hot 100. After the Hot 100 was established, a few songs spent 9 weeks at #1, but then in 1977 Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" would set a new record at 10 weeks. Olivia Newton-John would tie that record in 1982 with "Physical." Both songs would keep the record for a decade. Then a change in chart methodology gave songs a new advantage and in 1992 Boyz II Men would spend 13 weeks at #1 with "End of the Road." Since then, eleven songs have spent 13 or more weeks at #1. The current record holder as of this posting date is "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X (featuring Billy Ray Cyrus), which spent 19 weeks at #1. Besides Cheap Trick's hit, only two other artists have reached the Pop chart with a version of "Don't Be Cruel." In 1960, Bill Black's Combo made it to #11 (Black had previously been the bassist in Elvis' trio and played on the original recording). Then R&B star Barbara Lynn would briefly chart at #93 in 1963.

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