Saturday, October 9, 2021

"Button Off My Shirt" by Paul Carrack

Song#:  3638
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  91
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Carrack's remake of "When You Walk in a Room" served as the third single from his third album One Good Reason. It didn't perform well peaking at a very low #90 on the Pop chart. Still, Carrack's label thought there was more gas in the tank and decided to issue out this fourth single. It did nearly the same stopping one notch lower at #91. That result wrapped up things for the album. However, Carrack would keep busy as a member of Mike + the Mechanics with their hit Living Years album soon to be released in October of '88. Carrack would then head back into the studio to record his fourth solo effort.

ReduxReview:  I really like the chorus of this song. It's immediately catchy and I like the melody along with the chord changes. It was a good fit for Carrack as well. However, the rest of the song doesn't quite come up to the same level as the chorus. It sounds basic and is a bit bland. It is also very 80s-centric. Co-writer Graham Lyle had written hits for Tina Turner and touches of this tune are reminiscent of some of the tunes he did for her. It's a likable track, but overall not one that was going to get far up the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by country superstar Ronnie Milsap. Written by Bill Livsey and Graham Lyle, Milsap recorded the tune for his 1987 album Heart & Soul. It would later be released in the late summer of '88 as the fifth single from the LP. It would reach #4 on the Country chart a month after Carrack's version debuted on the Pop chart.  2) As Carrack was finishing up his One Good Reason album, he got the opportunity to contribute a song to a soundtrack. Songwriter Dean Pitchford, who wrote the screenplay and co-wrote the songs for the '84 hit flick Footloose, was busy in '87 working on his next film. His next screenplay would be for the high school drama Sing. Like Footloose, Pitchford would co-write songs that would be featured in the movie and secure some top talent to perform them including Michael Bolton, Patti LaBelle, REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin, and Starship's Mickey Thomas. Carrack was also approached to do some vocals for the film's love song "Romance." It would end up being  duet between Carrack and Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn. The song would be released as a single and get to #14 at AC. It failed to reach the Pop chart. The only other charting single from the soundtrack was "Birthday Suit" by Johnny Kemp, which would get to #21 R&B/#36 Pop/#36 Dance. The film was a critical and box office failure. The soundtrack was also a dud peaking at #196.


Friday, October 8, 2021

"Groovy Kind of Love" by Phil Collins

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3637
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  52
Peak:  1 (2 week)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  While Collins wasn't necessarily a soundtrack king like Kenny Loggins, two of his Pop #1 hits came from films; "Against All Odds" from the movie of the same name and "Separate Lives" from White Nights. Collins would add to that total with this single from the soundtrack to the comedy crime film Buster, which just happened to star Collins along with Julie Walters. In addition to starring in the film, Collins would supply four new songs to the soundtrack, which also featured a few oldies along with snippets of the score by Art of Noise's Anne Dudley. Prior to the film's release, this first single from the soundtrack was issued out. The song quickly took off and made it to the top of the Pop chart in eight weeks. It would stay at #1 for two weeks and then leisurely descend spending an additional sixteen weeks on the chart. The single would end up being a gold seller. It would also reach #1 AC along with hitting #1 in Collins' UK homeland. It marked the first and only time that a Collins solo hit would reach #1 in both the US and the UK. The soundtrack album would eventually become a gold seller despite only reaching #54 on the chart. This song would be Collins' fifth Pop #1 apart from his band Genesis, with whom he reached #1 once. It would also earn Collins a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.

ReduxReview:  I admit that when this came out I didn't know it was a remake. I thought it was an amazing song and ran out to get the single. After seeing the songwriters listed and figuring in the "groovy" title, I realized something was up. I later learned, probably in Billboard or via the American Top 40 radio show that Collins was not the first to record the tune. Still, I loved it and played the single quite a bit. While the record buying public love the song, it didn't get a lot of critical accolades. It was considered a schmaltzy remake of a good 60s tune and a vehicle to keep Collins as a hot property pop star. These days, I don't think those assessments were too far off. Collins was trying to up the ante by attempting to be a movie star and in case that didn't work (it didn't...) he was certainly still going to be a music star and the idea to remake this song (apparently courtesy of singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop) seemed like a potential big win (it was...). Despite being a gold-selling #1 hit, I don't hear this song often these days. It has taken a backseat to other Collins/Genesis hits and in some ways I think that is okay. It was an interesting remake at the time it came out, but it is now sort of an odd, yet pleasant artifact in Collins' discography.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the English beat band The Mindbenders and released as a single in 1965. The song would reach #2 in both the US and the UK. The song's melody came from the Rondo section of composer Muzio Clementi's Sonatina, Opus 36, No. 5, which was published in 1797. Brill Building songwriters Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager wrote lyrics to go with the adapted melody. The completed song was first given to Lesley Gore, but her producer turned it down due to the use of the slang word "groovy." The tune then got picked up by The Mindbenders. It was their first single after their original leader Wayne Fontana left the group. It would prove to be their only Top 10 hit without Fontana. Collins' ballad-style remake would surpass the upbeat original and top both the US and UK chart. (Weird side note - Toni Wine was also a session vocalist and was one of The Archies. She was also one of the voices used in the famous Meow Mix commercials.)  2) While Buster was Collins' first starring role in a film, it wasn't his first time acting. He actually attended acting school as a teenager and in '64 was cast as the Artful Dodger in West End runs of the hit musical Oliver! He also was cast in a British TV children's movie called Calamity the Cow. After auditioning for the lead part in 1968's Romeo and Juliet (which eventually went to Leonard Whiting), Collins put acting aside to focus on music. Buster was based on 1963 Great Train Robbery in England and one of its participants Buster Edwards (he actually makes a cameo in the film). Reviews of the film were generally mixed and although it did fairly well in the UK, it was a box office dud in the US. The soundtrack, however, became far more popular.


Thursday, October 7, 2021

"Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)" by Cinderella

Song#:  3636
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  74
Peak:  12
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  This Philly band's 1986 debut album, Night Songs, became a #3 multi-platinum seller thanks to the #13 Pop hit "Nobody's Fool." After that success and subsequent tours, the band then had to get back into the studio to record a follow-up. Long Cold Winter was ready to go by the spring of '88 and to kick things off the label issued out a track titled "Gypsy Road" as the first single. While the tune would do fairly well at Rock getting to #20, the song wasn't the right one for a more mainstream audience and it failed to make the Pop chart (it would be reissued later in '89 and do better). Next up for release was the power ballad "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)." The song took off at Rock and became the band's first Top 10 hit reaching #10. That result along with support from MTV helped the song cross over to the Pop chart where it would go on to become their biggest hit peaking just outside the Top 10. In turn, the album would then peak at #10 and be certified platinum. A little over two months later it would go double-platinum.

ReduxReview:  I didn't hook into Cinderella at the time. The lone exception was "Coming Home" from Long Cold Winter. I bought that single, but for the most part ignored the band. I really shouldn't have. They had some solid tracks and this hit was one of them. Their blues-leaning rock set them a bit apart from the other hair metal bands at the time and I really should have listened to them more. This power ballad was ripe for crossover success and it should have gone Top 10. It was a well-written tune with pop sensibilities dressed up with big guitars and even bigger hair.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was directed by Nick Morris. He had previously done videos for several top artists including Paul Young, Mr. Mister, Eddie Money, and Europe. Cinderella's record company hired him on to do two videos for the band's new album. They gave him a sizable budget and wanted the videos to be done in exotic locales. For "Gypsy Road," Morris took the band to Mexico and initially tried to shoot a video at the famous Mayan pyramid site of Chichén Itzá, but they were thwarted from doing so by local officials. Morris then found an unattended pyramid not far away and did the shoot. For "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)," Morris and the band went to Mono Lake, a saline soda lake located in Bodie National Forest in California. The picturesque lake had a ghost town nearby and the combo seemed perfect for a video shoot. Securing permission to use the sites was not difficult, but they could not disturb the natural landscape. The crew basically had to assemble everything in their cars and vans and carry it to the shoot locations as they could not drag, pull, or drive anything across the national park areas including the beach. Still, for one of the video's most memorable images, they somehow got a grand piano set up on the beach for lead singer Tom Keifer to sit and perform at. Of course this was back in the days when record companies were spending scads of money on music videos. That extravagance would, for the most part, go away when the music biz would change with the advent of streaming and services such as YouTube. Michael and Janet Jackson's 1995 video for "Scream" still remains the most expensive music video ever made coming it at $7 million.


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

"Inside a Dream" by Jane Wiedlin

Song#:  3635
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  57
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Former Go-Go Wiedlin grabbed her first and only solo Pop Top 10 hit with "Rush Hour," the first single from her second album Fur. To follow it up, this next track was selected for release. Unfortunately, it didn't catch on as well as her previous single and it stopped shy of the halfway point on the Pop chart. By this point in time the album had already reached its peak of #105. In 1990, Wiedlin would release her third solo album Tangled. The single "World on Fire" would fail to chart and the LP quickly disappeared. It would be ten years before Wiedlin would record a fourth effort. Kissproof World would come out in 2000. Over the years Wiedlin would rejoin the Go-Go's for various performances and tours along with recording the band's fourth album, 2001's God Bless the Go-Go's.

ReduxReview:  This album-opening track was a good choice for a follow-up single, but it just wasn't quite as immediately catchy or memorable as "Rush Hour." I actually think the single's b-side "Song of the Factory" could have done better. The track quickly became a fan favorite and had been highlighted by some critics. A cool dance remix of the song might have pushed the tune into the Top 40. While a nice tune, "Inside a Dream" just wasn't going to be a major hit. The Fur album had some highlights and was a good listen, but for me it was weaker than her wonderfully quirky '85 self-titled debut album. Her next album, Tangled, also had a few good tracks, but I think Wiedlin got a raw deal from her label EMI. The title track, which appeared in the 1990 film Pretty Woman and was on its soundtrack, should have been the lead single. Instead, "World on Fire," which was not single-worthy, was released and it predictably tanked. Wiedlin was a solid songwriter both with the Go-Go's and on her own and she should have had a bigger solo career. A few critics dismissed her thin, baby doll voice, but I liked her unique sound and delivery. All four of her solo discs are worth checking out, especially her underrated '85 debut. (It had been a while since I'd heard this song and I kept thinking - where have I heard the verse before?  It sounded so familiar. Then it hit me. It was very, very similar to the verse in Sinéad O'Connor's 1990 "The Emperor's New Clothes," the second single from her #1 album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. The single got to #60 Pop. I doubt O'Connor copped from Wiedlin, but the passages are eerily similar.)

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to a solo music career, Wiedlin dabbled in acting after departing from the Go-Go's. Her first role was a short, but memorable cameo in the 1985 board game inspired comedy flick Clue. She appeared as a singing telegram. The film was a critical and box office dud, but it later became a popular cult film. She also briefly appeared in 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and '87's Sleeping Beauty. Wiedlin then played Joan of Arc in the 1989 hit comedy Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. The small tastes of acting didn't really entice Wiedlin to pursue larger roles. She would mainly stick to music, but along the way did appear in a few films and TV shows. She also provided voice work for several animated shows including later iterations of the Scooby-Doo series.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

"The Promise" by When in Rome

One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  3634
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  87
Peak:  11
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This UK trio formed in '87 and immediately set out to record demos and gain exposure by performing in clubs. Elektra Records showed interest in the trio and ended up signing them. Unfortunately, not long after joining Elektra, the US-based label decided to close their London office. The trio could have stayed on the label, but decided to get out of their contract because it proved too difficult to be in London and have to work remotely with a US office. Luckily, they had another option. Virgin Records had also been interested in the trio, so they quickly signed on with Virgin's offshoot label 10 Records. One of their demo songs that attracted the label, "The Promise," got recorded and was initially pushed out in the UK in '87, but it got nowhere. However, later in '88 a remix of the tune got some traction in US clubs. It would catch on and in June of '88 it would get to #1 on the Dance chart. With that success, Virgin ordered an album and then tried to push the song to pop radio. It would take a while, but the tune began to gain an audience and eventually it would just miss the US Pop Top 10 peaking at the dreaded #11 spot. The trio's debut album would get released in the fall and it would make it to #84. Although When in Rome would get one more very minor Pop chart entry, this lone near-Top 10 hit got them tagged as a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  When in Rome fell in line with other Europop bands of the era like OMD and Ultravox who took a combination of synthpop and new wave to the masses via chugging rhythms and catchy melodies. The band hit the right formula on the head with "The Promise." The percolating track with its soaring, memorable chorus and sentimental lyrics was certainly 80s ear candy. It was too bad that it stopped one notch short of the Top 10. Unfortunately, their album didn't have anything else as radio-ready and the band just sort of came and went. Still, they were able to score this one memorable hit that has had a pretty good post-chart life.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song got a bit of a revival via a quirky hit film. In 2003, When in Rome member Clive Farrington got a phone call asking if "The Promise" could be used in an upcoming movie. The original trio agreed and the song was used in the 2004 comedy flick Napoleon Dynamite. The tune can be heard during the film and also over the end credits. The film, which starred Jon Heder as the title character, would go on to be a hit and that drew attention to "The Promise." The song would also be on the film's soundtrack album, which got to #147. Unfortunately, the song's resurgence did not reunite the original trio. Instead, it drove a wedge between two factions of the band along with a dispute concerning use of the band's name.


Monday, October 4, 2021

"Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls" by Book of Love

Song#:  3633
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  90
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Synthpop, Alternative Dance

Pop Bits:  This Philly/NYC band officially came together in 1983. Made up of two high school friends, Ted Ottaviano and Susan Ottaviano (oddly, not related) along with Lauren Roselli and Jade Lee, the quartet's demo of a song titled "Boy" found its way to Sire Records who took a shot on the band. They re-recorded "Boy" and tossed it out as a single in 1985. It did well in clubs and ended up getting to #7 on the Dance chart. A second single, "I Touch Roses," did nearly as well getting to #8 Dance. The pair of hits had Sire calling for a full album and Book of Love's self-titled debut would get released in '86. The band also got hooked up opening for Depeche Mode on their tours, which helped to expand their audience. They finally got back in the studio in '87 to record their second album, Lullaby. To kick things off, this first single was issued out. Once again, it did well on the Dance chart getting to #5. The action there helped the song cross over to the Pop chart, but it would only circle the very bottom rungs for a month. I would be their only single to reach the Pop chart. The extra exposure helped the album make it to #156. A third album, 1991's Candy Carol, would sell a few copies and get to #174. Their 1991 LP Lovebubble would not chart, but it did contain the #4 Dance hit "Boy Pop." After that album, the band would split. Later in 2001, Reprise Records would release a compilation from the band titled I Touch Roses: The Best of Book of Love. A new remix of their first hit "Boy" would be issued as a single and it surprisingly went to #1 on the Dance chart. The band has reunited and performed together several times over the years.

ReduxReview:  Apparently, this was one of the first charting songs to contain lyrics that referenced the AIDS epidemic with "Strangers in the night, exchanging glances, but sex is dangerous, I don't take my chances." Weirdly, it also references a Frank Sinatra hit. The chugging tune had kind of a dark European synthpop feel, which was probably why they got paired up with Depeche Mode on their tour. Gurgling synths drove the tune while Susan Ottaviano's expressive alto creepily crawled over them. The track leaned towards goth, which was starting to invade college and indie radio. However, it wasn't something that was prime for Pop chart success. The band and the song are interesting late-80s curios.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The first track on Lullaby is a dance style remake of the 1974 #7 instrumental hit "Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield. The tune became popular thanks to its use in the hit 1973 horror classic The Exorcist. The song melded right into the next track, "Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls." In their "Tubular Bells" remake, band member Lauren Roselli imitated a line from the film said by its young star Linda Blair, "mother, make it stop!"  2) A song from their third album Candy Carol would end up having a horror movie connection as well. It would be picked up for use in the 1991 Oscar-winning thriller The Silence of the Lambs. Band member Lauren Roselli wanted to branch out into acting and ended up getting cast in a small roll in the film. It seems Book of Love was recording their album around the same time that Silence was being filmed and Roselli played "Sunny Day" for director Jonathan Demme. He liked it enough to use it in the background of a scene in the film. Roselli would also be cast in Demme's 1993 Philadelphia.


Sunday, October 3, 2021

"Heart Don't Fail Me Now" by Holly Knight

Song#:  3632
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  59
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Holly Knight's career as a songwriter took off in the 80s with artists like Animotion, Aerosmith, Tina Turner, Scandal, and Heart earning Top 10 hits from her compositions. While that success was lucrative and rewarding, it seems Knight still had ambitions to not only write the music, but to perform it as well. She previously gave it a go as a member of two bands that each got a Pop Top 40 entry; Spider with the 1980 #39 "New Romance (It's a Mystery)," and Device with the 1986 #35 "Hanging on a Heart Attack." Still, that wasn't quite enough and so in '88 Knight decided to give a solo career a try. She got a deal with Columbia Records and set out to write and record a self-titled debut album. After finishing the LP with producer Chris Lord-Alge, this album opening track was selected to be the first single. It got on the Pop chart, but it didn't get very far peaking in the bottom half. A second single didn't generate any interest and due to those results, the album failed to chart and disappeared quickly along with Knight's solo career. It would be her only attempt at a solo album. Knight would then focus on her day job and continue to supply material for other artists. Oddly, with a solid list of hits to her name, none have resulted in a Grammy nomination for Knight.

ReduxReview:  So here's the problem with hit songwriters trying for a solo career. They obviously have a knack for coming up with great tracks for other artists, but what they fail to do is hold back at least a couple of their best songs for themselves. They are in the business of selling their works, so their best material will usually fall in the hands of an established artist and that leaves in their hands songs that they personally like, but perhaps wouldn't get picked up by anyone. Also, writing for yourself is different from an assignment where you are requested to write something specifically for an artist. Without that inspiration, you may not have come up with that one hit. Some songwriters made the transition, such as Carole King, but just as many fail and Knight was one of them. She had a couple of things going against her; the lack of a solid hit and a voice that was capable, but underwhelming. This single was arguably the best song on the LP and it was a good composition. However, it wasn't quite strong enough to cut through the competition and Knight's vocal didn't provide any power. Oddly, this sounds like a song that might have been a middling Top 40 hit back in the early 80s for someone like Jennifer Warnes or Karla Bonoff. I like the song, but it just wasn't going to be the one that could make Knight into a hit making solo star.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Does the male voice singing in the background of this song sound familiar? It should. It belongs to Daryl Hall. Around the time that Knight was recording her debut album, she had the opportunity to co-write a song with Hall for the '88 Hall & Oates album Ooh Yeah! The song "Soul Love" would appear on the album and would become the b-side to the #29 single "Missed Opportunity." Hall's vocal appearance on "Heart Don't Fail Me Now" was most likely a thank you for working on "Soul Love."  2) Also on Knight's debut LP was a remake of a hit she co-wrote with Mike Chapman for Pat Benatar. Knight would do her own take on "Love Is a Battlefield," which Benatar first recorded and took to #5 in '83. The song would earn Benatar her fourth consecutive Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Knight's take on the tune was different from Benatar's assertive rock version. Knight relaxed the tempo a bit and gave it a more strict 4/4 feel. She and Chapman originally wrote it as a ballad, but Benatar and her husband guitarist Neil Giraldo changed it to an uptempo synth-rock track. Knight's take doesn't take the tune all the way back to its ballad origins, but the mid-tempo rock arrangement was certainly different from Benatar's hit.