Saturday, October 16, 2021

"Way Out" by J.J. Fad

Song#:  3645
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  61
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  This female rap trio made an impression with their first single, "Supersonic." The song would end up being a gold seller that got to #22 R&B/#30 Pop/#10 Dance. To follow-it up, this track from their debut album Supersonic would be issued out. It wouldn't do as well as their first single only getting to #61 Pop/#51 R&B. The tune didn't do much for album sales, but by this point in time the LP had already peaked at #20 R&B/#49 Pop and gone gold.

ReduxReview:  "Supersonic" was a terrific track and while this follow up didn't quite get to the same level, it was still a solid track. It was a hooky tune that was a fun listen. I also liked the addition of the guitar sample from The Monkees' 1966 track "Mary, Mary." (Just a couple months earlier, Run-D.M.C. covered "Mary Mary"). I bought the single and thought it would be another good hit for the trio, but it surprisingly stalled in the bottom half of both the Pop and R&B charts. "Supersonic" rightfully gets all the love and attention, but folks shouldn't have ignored this little gem.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  While J.J. Fad is usually seen as a female rap trio with Juana Burns (aka MC J.B.), Dania Birks (Baby-D), Michelle Franklin (Sassy C.), the group also had a side member. DJ Train (Clarence Lars) would man the turntable for the trio and provide the scratching behind the tunes. He would do so on the group's debut album and on their 1990 follow up. However, J.J. Fad was not his only project. In 1989, he would help form the gangsta rap outfit C.P.O. (Capital Punishment Organization) with Vince "Lil' Nation" Edwards. They would release an album in 1990 titled To Hell and Black. Although none of their singles would reach the charts, the album would get to #33 R&B. It would be the group's only album. Sadly, in 1994 DJ Train died of smoke inhalation due to a house fire. It seems that his mother, sisters and niece made it out fine, but Train thought there were two more people inside and ran in to get them. It was a fatal mistake as he was then overcome by the smoke. He passed away later at a local hospital.


Friday, October 15, 2021

"One Moment in Time" by Whitney Houston

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3644
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  57
Peak:  5
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The idea of creating songs for the Olympics wasn't a new one. The '84 summer games held in Los Angeles had an official soundtrack with compositions (John Williams' now famous "Olympic Fanfare and Theme") and pop/rock tunes by the likes of Loverboy, Foreigner, and Christopher Cross whose track "A Change for Heaven" was issued out as a single (#16 AC/#76 Pop). The album wasn't a big seller, but its concept wasn't forgotten as the '88 Summer Olympics approached. To be held in Seoul, South Korea NBC would be the main broadcaster for the US and it seems someone took the idea of a themed album to Arista head Clive Davis and a deal was struck for him to supply a soundtrack. Of course Davis had in his label stable one of the biggest stars in music at the time, Whitney Houston, so it seemed logical for her to appear on the album. The song given to her was an Albert Hammond/John Bettis composition titled "One Moment in Time." Houston got it recorded with producer Narada Michael Walden and a few weeks prior to the open ceremonies, the song was issued out as a single. The timing, of course, was perfect as Houston had just wrapped up the singles from her second album. Then the Olympics came and the inspirational tune was all over NBC's broadcast. All that plus Houston's star power and vocal ability helped the song become her 10th consecutive Pop Top 10 hit. It would also become her seventh #1 on the AC chart. Over on the R&B chart it didn't do as well and became her first single to not hit the Top 10 reaching only #22. The song would end up earning Whitney a Grammy nod for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. Thanks to the hit, the soundtrack album would reach #31 and go gold (yes, an appropriate certification for something Olympic related).

ReduxReview:  For anyone who needs a massive, inspirational, treacly, catchy, mass-appealing song for an event or occasion, this would be it. Hammond and Bettis certainly gave their all and threw in every musical trick in the book to make this work not only for the Olympics, but for Houston as well. It was going to take someone with prime vocal chops to pull this off and Houston was the right one for the job. Between the writers, Houston, and Walden's equally gigantic arrangement/production, the song became the perfect anthem for the Olympics and although it leaned towards sentimental AC pop, it still became a big hit. While I definitely appreciated all of that, I really didn't like the song at all. For me it was just a big overblown schlocky tune that was good for what it was written for, but as a pop single constantly heard on the radio....yeesh. It wore me down after about two listens. Plus, I was getting tired of Houston belting out these AC songs that sounded like they were for someone twice her age. Clive Davis had kept her stocked up on these adult ballads and it all sort of culminated with this one. While I appreciate its Olympic use and its place in history at the time, as just a song in Houston's catalog it doesn't rank among my favorites.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Since the host country for the Olympics was South Korea, Houston didn't get to perform the song at the opening or closing ceremonies. Her first big live performance of the song came when she sang it during the opening of the Grammy Awards show in February of '89. Her rendition at the show is considered among her best performances. Houston was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, for the song at that show, but she ended up losing the trophy to Tracy Chapman.


Thursday, October 14, 2021

"How Can I Fall?" by Breathe

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3643
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  79
Peak:  3
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  This British band had difficulty trying to break through, but after several single attempts in the UK and US, their song "Hands to Heaven" finally secured them a hit (#2 Pop/#2 AC). To follow it up, their label chose to release another ballad and sent out "How Can I Fall?" It would end up being another winner for them getting to #3 Pop while topping the AC chart. The second hit spurred sales of the album, which would reach a new peak of #34 and go gold.

ReduxReview:  Although they probably didn't want to get trapped as being a ballad band, this was a smart choice for a follow-up single. It was another pretty, memorable track that once again featured a lovely vocal by David Glasper. And as with "Hands to Heaven," how did the record company not hear a hit in this? It seems they were dead set on breaking the band with an uptempo tune and it wasn't working. Meanwhile, they had this song and "Hands to Heaven" just sitting there hoping to get a chance. Luckily, the label stuck with the band long enough to finally issue these out. If they hadn't, the album would have disappeared into obscurity. Instead, me and a half million other folks in the US bought the disc.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Like many artists who have made the charts, Breathe's time in the pop sunshine wouldn't last long. The band would end up splitting in 1992 and that left its members looking for new opportunities. For the band's main co-writer/guitarist/keyboardist Marcus Lillington, it seems that he chose to leave the music business behind in favor of technology. He got involved with a dot com company in the 90s and by 2002 he and a couple of his co-workers formed their own business called Headscape. Focusing on website design and strategies, the company has been highly successful and have landed high profile clients (including one close to me - the University of Michigan Law School). Lillington has also co-hosted a podcast since 2005 about website design that is associated with Headscape. However, Lillington hasn't fully given up music. As of this posting date he has been a member of a country band called Duncan Biscuit & the Rich Ts. They issued out an EP in 2020 titled Songs for Tonto.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

"Dance Little Sister (Part One)" by Terence Trent D'Arby

Song#:  3642
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  81
Peak:  30
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Soul, Funk

Pop Bits:  Darby's debut album started off slow, but eventually made a splash hitting #4 Pop/#1 R&B and going platinum thanks to a pair of Top 10 hits including the #4 "Sign Your Name," which was the LP's third single. To follow up that hit, this next track was selected. The song would do well at R&B getting to #9 while hitting #7 on the Dance chart. It would cross over to the Pop chart, but it wouldn't do quite as well topping out just at the Top 30 mark. Although it wasn't a major hit at Pop, the tune seemed to help keep album sales steady and by November '88 it would turn double platinum.

ReduxReview:  For this song, D'Arby took on a Prince via James Brown approach and it worked out well. It was another solid track from D'Arby that I thought would do better. The funky jam should have at least cracked the Top 20. It was probably the last single-worthy track on the LP, so the label smartly didn't try for a fifth single. D'Arby certainly made his mark with the album, but it would be short-lived. He would never be able to replicate its success, at least in the US.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  D'Arby would get his second album recorded and ready for release in the fall of '89. Neither Fish Nor Flesh was highly anticipated, but when its first single "This Side of Love" came out, no one bit. The song failed to chart. A second single, "To Know Someone Deeply Is To Know Someone Softly," was able to reach #47 at R&B, but it didn't do much for the album, which only got to #61 Pop/#75 R&B. D'Arby's last song to reach the Pop chart came via his third album 1993's Symphony or Damn. "Delicate," which featured English pop/soul singer Des'ree, would get to #74. After one more album in '95 titled Violator, it seems that D'Arby may have lost his contract with Columbia and he retreated from the business for a bit. In 2001, he would declare that Terence Trent D'Arby was dead and that he had discovered a new spirit and identity. He then legally changed his name to Sandada Maitreya and began to work on music again. Between 2001 and 2021, Maitreya would record nine albums

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

"Waiting for a Star to Fall" by Boy Meets Girl

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3641
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  83
Peak:  5
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This husband and wife duo of George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam first hit the Pop chart early in '85 with their song "Oh Girl." Taken from their self-titled debut album, the tune would just crack the Pop Top 40 at #39. The album would get to #76. Following that result, it seems that things didn't work out all that well at A&M and the duo lost their contract. Even though their recording career was floundering, the pair found success writing songs for other artists. They basically hit the jackpot twice supplying two songs for Whitney Houston, both of which became #1 hits; "How Will I Know" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)." Those successes boosted the couple's profile and helped them secure another recording contract this time with RCA Records. They would record their second album, Reel Life, and this first single would be issued out. The song would become a major hit for them making the Pop Top 5 while hitting #1 on the AC chart. In turn, the album would make it to #50. The single would end up being their only one to make the Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  This song finally got matched with the right artist, who just happened to be the ones who wrote it (see below). It was a tune that was meant for them to record. It definitely had hit potential, but it was one of those songs that not everyone could perform. I can't imagine Houston doing this tune and Carlisle's demo proved it wasn't a good fit for her either. Sometimes the best person to record a song is whoever composed it and I think that was the case here. This was just a delicious slice of late 80s pop pie. Expertly written with sparkling, spot-on production by Arif Mardin, it was a catchy, urgent, sentimental song that was hard to resist. I also loved how the track progressed and built from the bridge to the sax solo to the climactic break. Oh, but that was just the first one. A second, bigger one came along giving the song its ultimate peak. A terrific late 80s pop tune that still sounds great.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Rejection can often hurt, but in the case of this song and Boy Meets Girl, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. When Clive Davis was gathering songs for Whitney Houston's second album, the pair were asked to submit a tune since their "How Will I Know" from Houston's debut album was a hit. Apparently, Merrill and Rubicam got an idea for a song when they went to see Houston perform at L.A.'s Greek Theater. During the show, they happened to see a falling star and that prompted them to write this song for Houston. They presented the demo to Clive Davis, who then rejected the song. Dejected but not defeated, the couple then went on to write "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)," which Davis liked enough not only to send it over to Houston, but to have it be the lead single from her second album. The song would hit #1. Meanwhile, "Waiting for a Star to Fall," got picked up by MCA Records and they pushed it over to Belinda Carlisle to record for her second solo album. She did a halfhearted demo (can be heard on YouTube) and quickly decided that the song was not a fit for her and rejected it despite label pressure. The song was then reportedly picked up by Robert Palmer either for his use or for an artist he was producing. Around that time Boy Meets Girl got signed to RCA and approached famed producer Arif Mardin to work with them. They played him the song and he agreed to produce them as the thought the song was a hit. The only stickler was that Palmer had the tune. So Mardin gave him a call and asked him to hold off on doing anything with it and Palmer agreed. The song finally got recorded and became a hit. Had it not been for the song getting rejected, who knows if Boy Meets Girl would have been able to secure a Top 10 hit. The tune was obviously meant to be for them.


Monday, October 11, 2021

"Strangelove" by Depeche Mode

Song#:  3640
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  95
Peak:  50
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Synthpop, Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This band's album Music for the Masses peaked at #35 in November '87 and a few months later was certified gold. It was boosted by three singles all of which did well on the Dance chart, but couldn't get any higher than #61 on the Pop chart. That included the lead single "Strangelove," which made it to #1 Dance/#76 Pop. The band's label could have called it a day and wrapped up things with the LP, but it seems that someone at the label felt that "Strangelove" didn't get a fair shake in the US (it went Top 10 in several countries and #16 in the band's UK homeland). In order to perhaps correct that, the label ordered up a new edit/remix of the song for single release in the US. On its second go-round, the tune did a little better on the Pop chart making it to the halfway point. It would also make it on to the Dance chart at #24. Although the song is seen as a classic in the band's catalog today and is familiar to a lot of people, back in the late 80s the tune just couldn't find its way into the mainstream.

ReduxReview:  In general, you can't really go wrong with any of the versions of this song. I prefer the cleaner sound of this later single and album version, but even the amped up initial single didn't take anything away from the tune. The record company tried in vain to make it a hit in the US, but it just wasn't going to happen. Still, the song remains popular in the band's catalog and is probably more well known today that it was back then.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The final show on the band's tour in support of Music for the Masses was held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on June 18, 1988. Prior to that performance it was decided that they would use the show as the basis for a concert documentary film. They brought on board famed music documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker to direct the movie, which interspersed performances by the band with segments featuring a set of fans that had won a contest to travel across the country to see the band. It was more of a documentary than a full-on concert film. Titled 101 due to the show being the 101st and last of their tour, the film was released along with an associated live album. Both were released in March of '89. The album would sell fairly well reaching #45 in the US and #5 in the UK. The single "Everything Counts" would be issued out from the album. It wouldn't make the US Pop chart, but did get to #16 on the Dance chart (#6 UK).


Sunday, October 10, 2021

"Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley (Free Baby)" by Will to Power

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3639
Date:  09/10/1988
Debut:  97
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Soft Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  Will to Power's first two singles were both middling entries peaking around the halfway mark on the Pop chart. However, the second one, "Say It's Gonna Rain," would be a hit in clubs and would reach #1 on the Dance chart. As that song was wrapping up its run, the group's self-titled debut album was ready and this third single coincided with its release. The ballad medley was completely different from the group's previous two dance-oriented hits and that allowed it to have a bit more mainstream appeal. The track debuted low on the Pop chart, but steadily ascended until it finally reached #1 in its thirteenth week. It would also do well at AC getting to #2. Sales of the single were strong and it would become a gold seller. Unfortunately, it seemed like more folks were interested in the single than the album, which only managed to reach a minor #68. 

ReduxReview:  Not long before this song came up for the blog, I saw an episode of the TV show Evil where girls started stabbing themselves in the ear due to subliminal messages they heard in a song that they couldn't get out of their heads. This hit didn't contain secret messages, but anytime I heard it I felt like the girls from the show; I just wanted to jab a pencil in my ear to make it stop. The concept of tossing these two classics together wasn't necessarily a bad one, but the fact that they were thrown into a vat and tossed around with sugary goo to get them thickly candy coated with late 80s synthpop was an awful idea. To add to the mess, the production was not great and Bob Rosenberg's voice was barely passable. I could see how some Frampton fans might have looked nostalgically at this track, but I would have expected fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd to cry foul. To take such a classic Southern rock song and turn it into pop fluff is nearly sacrilege. I just didn't get it. I thought the track was pretty awful and I avoided it at all costs. Still do. It is definitely one of the worst #1 songs of the 80s if not one of the worst songs of the decade in general.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  This track was a medley of two classic rock songs from the 70s. "Baby, I Love Your Way" was originally written and recorded by Peter Frampton for his 1975 fourth album Frampton. It would be the LP's second single, but it failed to chart as did its first single "Show Me the Way." Both songs would appear on his next LP Frampton Come Alive!, which would become one of the best selling live albums of all time (8 million in the US). "Show Me the Way" and "Baby, I Love Your Way" would both be issued out again as singles in their live versions and would reach #6 and #12, respectively on the Pop chart. A third single, "Do You Feel Like I Do," would get to #10. Will to Power would not be the only artist to take Frampton's song into the Pop Top 10. In 1994, the pop/reggae band Big Mountain would cover "Baby, I Love Your Way" and take it to #6. The second song in the medley was "Free Bird," a classic track original recorded by the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was the closing track on their 1973 debut album (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd). The following year after the success of "Sweet Home Alabama" (#8 Pop) off of their second album Second Helping, the song was released as a single due to its gaining popularity. Edited down from the 9 minute album version to just over 4 minutes, the song would make it to #19 Pop. Two years later, a live version would be issued out and get to #38. Will to Power's mastermind Bob Rosenberg came up with the idea to combine the songs. He didn't have enough tracks for the group's debut album and was searching for ideas. He happened to hear "Baby, I Love Your Way" on the radio, which made him thing of the song "Free Bird." Rosenberg then had an "a-ha!" moment and decided to create a medley of the two. Rosenberg sang the male vocal while Suzi Carr sang the female part. The unusual medley appealed to a wide range of folks many who were riding a nostalgia wave from knowing the original songs.