Saturday, September 18, 2021

"Love Bites" by Def Leppard

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3617
Date:  08/13/1988
Debut:  52
Peak:   1 (1 week)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  It would take eight years, but Def Leppard would finally crack the Pop Top 10 (#10) with "Hysteria," the third single and title track to their fourth album. Then they surpassed that hit with an even bigger one, the #2 "Pour Some Sugar on Me." Since that single did so well, it was decided that a fifth one would be pushed out. This power ballad was selected for release and it would go on to become the band's first and only #1 on the Pop chart. It would also reach #3 at Rock. The hit would really boost album sales. In late September it would go 6x platinum (six million copies) and two months later it would add another million to that total.

ReduxReview:  Def Leppard were at the apex of their career with this song. They had a long climb to the summit, but finally made it; and just in time too. Their next LP wouldn't come out until 1992 and by that point glam metal was in rapid decline in favor of grunge thanks mainly to Nirvana's 1991 LP Nevermind breaking through. Def Leppard would still capture a couple Pop Top 20s, but their popularity would never be as high or as strong as when this song hit #1. The power ballad had all the right elements in place to become a mainstream hit and I think the timing of its release, coming after the #2 "Pour Some Sugar on Me," was absolutely perfect. It was like a first punch that landed, and then the second one came for the knock out. It was definitely one of the best power ballads of the decade.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The album's producer, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, helped compose all the songs on Hysteria with the band, however this was one song that Lange had previously started to write and chose to bring it in to the band. Apparently in its original form, the song was more of a country-style ballad. Lange sang the song for the band while playing acoustic guitar. It seems the band dug the tune and wanted to flesh it out into something that would fit their sound. Their reworking of the song earned four members of the band a writing credit along with Lange, who would do most of the background vocals for the track. Lange would also contribute a little part at the very end that caused a bit of controversy. In the song's outro, the line "if you got love in your sights, watch out, love bites" is spoken. Then faintly in the background after that is a sort of retort that was done by Lange with his voice going through a vocoder. For some reason, folks thought they heard him say "Jesus of Nazareth, go to hell," which obviously didn't sit right with some folks, especially the religious folks who already hated rock music. However, that was a misinterpretation. According to lead singer Joe Elliott, the line that Lange actually said was "Yes it does, it does...bloody hell." Most likely, those looking to stir up things heard the "hell" part, thought it was something evil and subliminal, and applied what they thought they heard.


Friday, September 17, 2021

"Superstitious" by Europe

Song#:  3616
Date:  08/13/1988
Debut:  80
Peak:  31
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  This Swedish band conquered the charts worldwide with their 1987 single "The Final Countdown." The song reached #1 in many countries while making it to #8 in the US. The track appeared on their third album of the same name, which got to #8 in the US and went triple-platinum. That album also featured the #3 "Carrie." Following the massive success of the album, the band then had the task of trying to follow it up. Their new status as worldwide hit makers gave them the opportunity to raise their game and they were able to secure the services of producer Ron Nevison (Heart, Survivor). Together they would come up with Europe's fourth LP Out of This World. This first single would be released and while it would do well on the US Rock chart (#9), it would stop shy of the Pop Top 30. Two more singles would be released, but neither made the US charts. Still, this song and the band's popularity were enough to send the album to #19 and go platinum. The single and the album would mark the last time Europe would make the US charts.

ReduxReview:  The two songs that made the US Top 10 were hooky singles that were ready for radio. I'm sure both the band and their label were not only looking to replicate that success, but surpass it. To do so, they needed at least three solid catchy tracks that would reel in listeners. It was a tall order, but not an impossible one. Unfortunately, they couldn't get the job done. While several of the tracks on the album were good, none of them came close to being a hit-worthy single, including "Superstitious." The tune felt a little Frankenstein's monster-ish with different parts sewn together. It didn't sound cohesive and lacked a big hook. I'm surprised it even cracked the Pop Top 40. Europe had their time in the sun, but it sadly didn't last very long - at least in the US.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Europe's next album, 1991's Prisoners in Paradise, would continue their winning streak at home in Sweden (#9, platinum), but elsewhere it didn't make much of an impression. That disappointment combined with years of touring led to the band taking a hiatus. During that time three members of the band opted to record solo albums. Lead singer and songwriter Joey Tempest would have a pair of #7 albums in Sweden along with a few Top 40 singles. Guitarist John Norum would put a pair of albums on the Swedish chart along with a Top 40 single. However, in 1987 prior to the band's hiatus, Norum recorded his first solo album Total Control. It would get to #4 in Sweden and feature the #4 hit "Let Me Love You." Another single from the LP, a remake of the 1986 Vinnie Vincent Invastion track "Back on the Streets," was pushed over to the US and it got on the Rock chart at #34, which made Norum the only member of Europe to get on a US chart as a solo artist. Europe would get back together in 2003 and has since toured and recorded several albums.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

"Red, Red Wine" by UB40

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3615
Date:  08/13/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Reggae

Pop Bits:  This English band had been highly successful at home during the 80s collecting eleven Top 10 hits including two #1s. Yet in the US they remained a fringe act that had trouble trying to break into the mainstream. Their only two songs to enter the US Pop chart were both remakes; "Red, Red Wine" (#34, 1984) and "I Got You Babe" (with Chrissie Hynde, #28, 1985). The band perhaps had hopes that their self-titled 1988 album would get attention due to its first single being another remake with Chrissie Hynde, the 1969 Dusty Springfield track "Breakfast in Bed." Unfortunately, the single failed to reach the US Pop chart (#4 Alt Rock) and that left the album peaking at #53. It seemed that UB40 were just not meant to breakthrough in a bigger way in the US. That changed when a program director at a radio station in Phoenix, Arizona, spotlighted "Red, Red Wine" on a program about missed hits called Would've Been, Should've Been. The track got such a big response that the band's label was contacted and urged to give the song a second chance in the US. They did and it proved to be a great decision. For its second run, instead of reissuing the original edited single from '84, the label pushed out the full album version that included a rap by band member Astro. That change seemed to help the single, which slowly began to gain an audience around the country. Eventually the song would top the Pop chart (#13 AC) and go gold. The hit would reignite sales of the band's 1984 LP Labour of Love and before the song could even top the chart, it would go platinum. Although the recording was four years old, it finally provided UB40 with the breakthrough they were looking for in the US.

ReduxReview:  In the years since I first covered this song, my opinion hasn't really changed. It was (and still isn't) my cup o' tea. I perhaps may find it slightly less annoying these days, yet it will never be something I'll want to hear. I didn't get into their other hit remakes either (see below). Unfortunately, they kind of backed themselves into a corner with the reggae remakes, which lead to pop listeners/radio stations in the US ignoring their originals. In turn, that made their shelf life as hit makers limited. That was too bad as they had a lot more to offer than these tepid remakes.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  UB40's Labour of Love album consisted of all cover tunes including "Red, Red Wine" (originally written and recorded by Neil Diamond, 1968, #62). Perhaps spurred on by the song's delayed hit status in the US, the band then decided to do a second covers LP appropriately titled Labour of Love II. It would spawn two more US Pop Top 10 hits with "The Way You Do the Things You Do" (#7 - originally a hit by The Temptations, 1964, #11) and "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" (#6 - originally a hit by Al Green, 1973, #10). The album would reach #30 and go platinum. Although their next album, 1993's Promises and Lies would consist mainly of original songs, they did do one cover that was released as a single. "(I Can't Help) Falling in Love with You," originally a #2 hit for Elvis Presley in 1961, would earn UB40 their second US Pop #1. A follow-up single, "Higher Ground," would make it to #45 becoming the band's first and only original song to make the US Pop chart. After that, UB40 quickly faded in popularity in the US. Their next album would barely scrape the chart at #176. It would be their last time on any US chart. Back at home in the UK, they would continue to have hits and sell albums. Their fifth covers album, 2018's A Real Labour of Love would hit #2 in the UK and earn a silver sales award.


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

"Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3614
Date:  08/13/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  7
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Aussie band's sixth album, Kick, would end up being their biggest success reaching #3 in the US and selling over six million copies. The LP's first three singles would go Top 10 with them peaking in the order of release at #1 ("Need You Tonight"), #2 ("Devil Inside"), and #3 ("New Sensation"). Of course it would have been cool if this fourth single had peaked at #4, but it just missed out on that mark. Still, it was the band's fifth Top 10 hit in the US while also making it to #5 at Rock and #42 AC.

ReduxReview:  This waltzing track was a terrific follow-up to the band's previous rockin' hits. It was a sexy, hip swayin', bluesy tune that showcased a great vocal by Michael Hutchence and another good sax solo from band member Kirk Pengillly. Of course the best parts were the dramatic breaks. While not unheard of, those breaks of silence were not something commonly heard in pop hits. They added some cool dramatic flair. It really should have peaked at #4.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Despite this song reaching the Pop Top 10, the band's label chose not to officially release a fifth single. However, a pair of track from Kick would find their way on to the Rock chart via airplay. "Mystify," which was a single in the UK that got to #14, reached #17 on the US Rock chart. The title track would make an appearance at #33.  2) When director/writer Richard Kelly was putting together his 2001 sci-fi/psychological thriller Donnie Darko, he wanted to use this INXS song for the opening scene. However, with the film's budget quite low there wasn't enough money to gain the rights to use the tune. Needing something more budget-friendly, Kelly settled on "The Killing Moon" by Echo & the Bunnymen. Donnie Darko was critically well-received, but it came out a few weeks after 9/11. The film's dark themes along with its trailer that showed a plane incident didn't help its box office fortunes and it pretty much tanked on its first run. However, the movie started to gain a cult following after its release on DVD. Soon it became a midnight movie staple and eventually it recouped its costs. The cult success led to Kelly releasing a director's cut of the film in 2004. At that time he was finally able to secure the use of "Never Tear Us Apart" for the opening scene as he had originally wanted.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

"Jackie" by Blue Zone U.K.

Song#:  3613
Date:  08/13/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  54
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This UK trio formed in 1984 and immediately began to write songs and record demos. They would shop their tunes to many labels, but it seems the only one who showed interest was the indie Rockin' Horse Records. The trio signed on and then in a stroke of good luck, the label was purchased by Arista. Being on a bigger label would certainly be beneficial to the new trio who had already been in the process of recording. In '86, they would release two stand-alone singles in the UK, but neither charted. Still, they completed a debut album titled Big Thing and then pushed out the single "On Fire," which was getting traction and made the chart at #99. Unfortunately right after the song got on the chart, the King's Cross tube (subway) fire happened that killed 31 people. A song titled "On Fire" just wasn't appropriate at that time and Arista recalled the single. A second single, "Thinking About His Baby," charted at #79, but it wasn't enough for Arista to release the album in the UK. Seeking a broader audience, the label then released "Jackie" to some other territories including the US. It would get a little attention getting to #37 Dance and close to the halfway mark on the Pop chart. The album would be released in the US (with the adjusted name of Blue Zone U,K., due to an existing Blue Zone), but strangely no further singles or promotion would be done and it quickly disappeared along with Blue Zone's prospects. The LP wouldn't receive a release in the UK until 2016 when a deluxe reissue was assembled.

ReduxReview:  This slice of dance-pop was nothing like the silky smooth blue-eyed Barry White-influenced soul of Lisa Stansfield debut album (see below). She and her cohorts certainly upped their game for that LP. This urgent song had a lot going on. It was both exciting and exhausting. You can tell that Stansfield had a great voice, but the song and production nearly swallowed her up. It took me a couple of listens, but the tune ended up winning me over. It's a fun lost tune that helped to kick off Stansfield's career.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The trio consisted of three former school friends, Ian Devaney, Andy Morris, and lead singer Lisa Stansfield. After Blue Zone's debut album came and went, it seems they were in a sort of limbo state with their career and with the label. Then Stansfield co-wrote and performed vocals on two track for the debut album of the English electronic duo Coldcut, What's That Noise? Devaney would also participate playing keyboards. One of the tunes, "People Hold On," would be released as a single credited to Coldcut featuring Lisa Stansfield. It would reach #11 in the UK while getting to #6 on the US Dance chart. The hit boosted Stansfield's profile and Arista decided to sign her on as a solo act. Although she would be billed solo, Stansfield would co-write all the tracks on her debut album with her old trio-mates Devaney and Morris. Those two would also produce the tracks. The resulting LP, 1989's Affection, would be a major worldwide hit thanks to the single "All Around the World," which would get to #3 in the US and go platinum. The LP would reach #9 and also go platinum.  2) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by US singer Elisa Fiorillo. Written by the hitmaking team of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, it was recorded by Fiorillo and included on the soundtrack to the 1987 Mark Harmon comedy flick Summer School. It was not released as a single.


Monday, September 13, 2021

"Sendin' All My Love" by The Jets

Song#:  3612
Date:  08/13/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  88
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Up to this point in time, the family band's second album, Magic, had generated four singles. Three of those would reach the Pop Top 10 including the ballad "Make It Real," which got to #4 Pop/#1 AC. Since that fourth single did so well, the band's label took a chance on a fifth single and chose this song to push out. It didn't get very far on the Pop or R&B charts petering out at #88 and #72, respectively, but it did well in clubs and became the band's first any only #1 on the Dance chart.

ReduxReview:  If this track sounds a bit Madonna-ish, that is because her ol' cohort Stephen Bray was a co-writer on it. The tune is pretty good and I can hear where a remix might have drawn folks to the dance floor. As a pop radio release, it wasn't all that strong. Although it went to #1 at Dance, there really was no reason to push this out as a single. The label should have wrapped it up after the fourth single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although this song did not perform well at Pop and R&B, it seems the label was determined to eke out one more hit from the album and chose to release a sixth single. The ballad "Anytime" was selected for release. The song was written by Rupert Holmes who had his own #1 solo single back at the turn of the decade with "Escape (The PiƱa Colada Song)." Holmes already had an association with The Jets as he had written a song for their 1985 debut album. "You Got It All" would be the LP's third single and it would be the band's second Pop Top 10 reaching #3 (#2 R&B/#1 AC).  Unfortunately, Holmes' second effort for the band would not get close to doing that well. It would completely miss the Pop and R&B charts while topping out at #35 at AC.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

"Don't Walk Away" by Toni Childs

Song#:  3611
Date:  08/13/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  72
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This singer/songwriter's strict religious upbringing could have easily kept her from pursuing a career in music, but the pull was so strong that she ran away from home at the young age of 15 to discover what she had been missing. It didn't take long for her to decide that music was her path. She moved to L.A. and started to gain experience as a performer. She briefly became the lead singer in Berlin prior to Terri Nunn taking on that role and then went on to form her own band Toni and the Movers, which included future Bangle Michael Steele. After a few years of trying to figure out her own musical niche, Childs signed on with a publisher as a staff writer and took off for England where she continued to perform and develop a taste for world music. After that experience, she returned home with better focus and in 1985 signed on with A&M Records. She met David Ricketts of David+David and after doing some work on that duo's 1986 album Boomtown, began working on her own debut with Ricketts (by this point they were in a relationship). The pair would co-write and co-produce most of the songs on Childs' debut LP Union. This album opener, written by Childs and Phil Ramacon, would be issued out as a single. It would be her first and only song to make the US Pop chart peaking a low #72. It would do better on the Alternative Rock chart where it reached #17. Although the single wasn't a big hit, the album received lots of critical praise and that along with two Grammy nominations (Best New Artist, Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female), helped the album reach #63. It would take until 1995, but eventually Union would go gold. Childs' second album, 1991's House of Hope, would not fare as well (#115) and she would lose her contract with A&M. She would release a third album in 1994 titled This Woman's Boat. It wouldn't chart, but it did have the #13 Dance hit "Lay Down Your Pain."

ReduxReview:  If I remember right, I bought this album based on reviews. It sounded fascinating to me and I wasn't disappointed. The album opening track was just a huge blast of (synth) horn-driven soul-rock that was impactful and exciting. Adding to it was Childs' unique booming alto voice. I thought for sure this song would at least crack the Top 40, but it just didn't catch on in a bigger way. The balance of the album had some wonderful tracks and it was easy to hear why she nabbed a Grammy nod for Best New Artist. Her second LP was darker and a bit more difficult to digest, but it still had some excellent tracks. Both albums are worth seeking out.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In 1997, Childs would retreat from the spotlight due to developing Graves disease. In 2003, she was lured back into music when asked to write a song for the TV documentary V-Day: Until the Violence Stops. With David Ricketts and Eddy Free, Childs would write and record "Because You Are Beautiful." The song would go on to win the Emmy for Outstanding Music and Lyrics. In 2006, Childs would recover from Graves and has since toured and recorded three albums.  2) Childs would remain a sort of fringe, cult artist in the US, but she became a star in Australia and New Zealand. Her debut album would generate a pair of Top 20 hits, reach #8 and go double platinum. In New Zealand the LP would reach #1. Her second album would reach #4 Australia (#5 New Zealand) and go double-platinum. The single "I've Got to Go Now" would get to #5 in Australia. In 2012, Childs would make the move to Australia and take up residence in New South Wales.