Saturday, October 30, 2021

"Long Way to Love" by Britny Fox

Song#:  3659
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  100
Peak:  100
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  This Philly band began to form in 1985 when two original members of the band Cinderella, drummer Tony Destra and guitarist Michael Kelly Smith, decided to leave that band (or were fired according to a couple of accounts) and start one of their own. With lead singer Dean Davidson and bassist Billy Childs, Britny Fox was born and they quickly started to gain attention. In '86, they would record an indie LP titled In America, but not long after, Destra died in a car accident. He was eventually replaced by Johnny Dee and the band was then able to sign a deal with Columbia Records. They recorded a self-titled major label debut album with producer John Jansen and this first single was pushed out. It got some attention at rock radio and was able to reach #33 on the Rock chart. That along with support from MTV allowed the song to cross over to Pop. Unfortunately, it could only spend two weeks at the very bottom spot on the chart. Two further singles failed to chart. Despite the lack of support via singles, the band became popular thanks to their high profile tour dates with Poison and Warrant. The album would peak at #39 and eventually become a gold seller. The band seemed like they were poised for bigger things, but then their second album, '89's Boys in Heat failed to replicate the success of their previous effort peaking at a minor #79. Lead singer Davidson would then leave the band and was replaced with Tommy Paris. Britny Fox would put out '91's Bite Down Hard, but the demise of glam metal in favor of grunge took a toll and the album flopped. The following year the band would call it quits.

ReduxReview:  The band's connection to Cinderella sort of got them tagged as clones of that band, but I think that was a bit unfair. They were able to do their own thing and did it quite well. This driving first single was good example of late 80s hair metal. It rocked hard yet had enough pop elements to make it catchy. The track was produced well and Dean Davidson's high-pitched, gravelly delivery was just right for the genre. With the look, some good tunes, the support from MTV, and primo touring spots, the band got enough of the right promotion to make their album go gold. Their success didn't last long, but at least they were able to make an impression before grunge came in and nearly killed off glam metal.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The unusual name of the band came from the ancestry of lead singer Dean Davidson whose family line goes back to Wales in the 18th century. It seems that way back then he had an ancestor by the name of Brittany (or Brittney) Fox. Davidson thought the moniker sounded metal-ish and suggested it for the band's name. After an adjustment to the first name Britny Fox was born.  2) Thus far in the 80s, this has been the only song to peak at #100 on the Pop chart. Two songs got to #99; The Cure's "In Between Days (Without You)" and Colin Hay's "Hold Me." Both of those songs only spent one week on the chart. Britny Fox was able to hang on for a second week at the same spot. We'll see if in the remainder of '88 or in '89 another song will join the #100 peak or not.


Friday, October 29, 2021

"Bad Medicine" by Bon Jovi

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3658
Date:  09/24/1988
Debut:  43
Peak:  1 (2 week)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  The Jersey band's first two albums performed modestly well, but neither of them truly met Bon Jovi's expectations at a music or sonic level. They knew their third effort was going to be crucial, so they bet everything on working with producer Bruce Fairbairn, engineer Bob Rock, and songwriter Desmond Child. The resulting album, 1986's  Slippery When Wet, was exactly what they were looking for and their gamble paid off handsomely with the LP spending eight weeks at #1 and spawning a pair of #1 hits. By the fall of '87, the album had sold over eight million copies. Bon Jovi became rock superstars, but they still had a lot to prove. The task of following up such a major success was not easy, but the band was up for the challenge. Keeping their same core team as before, the band got in the studio and recorded their fourth album New Jersey. The highly anticipated LP got kicked off with this rockin' first single. Of course it was all over radio and MTV from the get-go, which helped the tune debut just outside of the Top 40 on the Pop chart. It wouldn't take too long for the single to reach the #1 spot while also getting to #3 at Rock. The album would debut at #8 and then easily cruise to #1 in its second week. It would remain at that spot for four weeks. Before the year was out, the LP would already be certified triple-platinum.

ReduxReview:  Even now, I find this song an interesting choice to toss out as a lead single. There was a lot riding on the tune and when I first heard it, I wasn't sure it was going to click. It was a bombastic rocker tinted with a smidge of the blues that oddly started out with the chorus. The feeling of the tune shifted at points and then there was a break that had Jon Bon Jovi doing a sort of James Brown-ish "I'm not done yet" kind of thing to bring around the chorus once more. The song was certainly arena ready. I just wasn't sure if it had enough mainstream appeal to make it a hit. There certainly were other more radio-friendly tracks on the album, so this one being pushed out first was a bit bold. However, that chorus was undeniably catchy and with Def Leppard and Guns N' Roses turning the volume up and getting hits, the tune certainly had a chance. Indeed it suited everyone just fine and Bon Jovi ended up with their third #1. I liked the song enough to immediately buy the album.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  With Russia going through a thawing period where the government was allowing aspects of Western culture to be let in to the country, music was at the forefront and a few acts were allowed to perform in the country. One of the major breakthrough events was the 1989 Moscow Music Peace Festival. The two day event featured Western hard rock/metal bands including Ozzy Osbourne, Cinderella, Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi. It was a highly successful venture that introduced bands to the Soviet people many of whom were not familiar with any of the acts. Bon Jovi became the standout favorite and soon were an act that got the approval of the Russian government. The band would then become officially sanctioned by Russia and their album New Jersey selected to be the first American rock recording to be officially released and distributed in the country. It was issued out on the Soviet state owned label Melodiya in 1989.


Thursday, October 28, 2021

"Look Away" by Chicago

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3657
Date:  09/24/1988
Debut:  77
Peak:  1 (2 week)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The legendary band's second album without Peter Cetera, Chicago 19, kicked off in a positive way with the Diane Warren-penned "I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love" getting to #3 Pop/#5 AC. It was their fifth Pop Top 10 of the 80s. All five of those hits were power ballads, which established a pattern for the band. It also sort of backed them into a corner with them having a tough time getting a hit with an uptempo tune. For Chicago 19's second single, the label didn't take any chances and chose to issue out yet another booming ballad. "Look Away," also written by Warren, was pushed out and it became the apex of their 80s ballad days peaking at #1 Pop and #1 AC. It was the band's third and final #1 on the Pop chart. The single sold well enough to go gold and its lengthy run on the chart that extended through to the next year helped to make it the #1 charting song for 1989. Thanks to the hit, the album rebounded to hit a new peak of #37 and with sales steady it was able to go platinum. It would be Chicago's last regular studio album to achieve that feat.

ReduxReview:  Aaaaand here we go again. Another big monster AC heartbreak ballad from Chicago. Yippee. By this point in time I was just ignoring Chicago. Their power ballad formula had worn thin and I was over it. Was it a bad song? No. Warren was a master at this style of song and she knocked out a pretty good one here. It was memorable and had some interesting chord progressions. My only real quibble with it is that I find it to just be sort of a lyrical rewrite of "Walk on By." That song states "If you see me walking down the street and I start to cry each time we meet, walk on by."  Warren's tune says "But if you see me walkin' by and the tears are in my eyes, look away, baby look away." Hmmm. I dunno. If I was Burt Bacharach or Hal David, I might have had an issue with this. As far as Warren songs go, this one seems a bit lazy to me and doesn't rank among her best. However, it had hit appeal and that's what mattered. It worked out great for Chicago, but it was a meh shrug for me.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) As previously mentioned on another entry, this song was first offered to Cheap Trick. For the band's Lap of Luxury album their label wanted them to record a couple of songs from outside writers to amp up the LP's commercial viability. A VP from their label gave them the choice to record one of two songs that he knew were going to be #1 hits. The choices were "Look Away" and "The Flame." They chose the latter and indeed it went to #1. Chicago then got "Look Away" and as the VP predicted, it also sailed to #1.  2) Over thirty years after this song became a hit, a man in England filed a plagiarism lawsuit against Diane Warren. Brendan Greaves filed suite in Los Angeles in 2017 claiming that he wrote "Look Away" back in '87. According to Greaves, he wrote the song when he was fourteen and submitted it to a national school music competition that had been sponsored by EMI Records. His song made it to the semi-finals, but did not win. He claims that Warren discovered the song via the competition and used it as the basis for her own work. Of course people asked Greaves why file a suit decades later he basically stated that he was from a small town and had not been aware of the song until 2015 (the single only got to #77 in the UK and the album did not chart). While court documents are not readily available, on the docket for the case it seems that the parties were pushed into a settlement phase with the outcome not known. However, the case was then fully dismissed a few months later.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

"Giving You the Best That I Got" by Anita Baker

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  3656
Date:  09/24/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  3
Weeks:  22
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary, Quiet Storm

Pop Bits:  After a rough start with her 1983 debut album The Songstress, Baker was finally able to secure a contract with Elektra Records and record her '86 follow-up Rapture. It got off to a slow start, but thing broke wide open for her with the LP's second single "Sweet Love." It would be a #8 Pop/#2 R&B/#3 AC hit that would earn Baker a Grammy. The LP would spawn three more R&B and AC hits, reach #11 Pop/#1 R&B, win Baker a second Grammy, and eventually sell over five million copies. The task then fell to Baker to follow-up such a huge breakthrough. Working again with producer Michael J. Powell, Baker came up with Giving You the Best That I Got. The title track would be issued out as the first single and overall it would end up being the biggest hit of her career reaching #1 at R&B and AC while making to the Pop Top 3. The hit all but assured that the album would do well and indeed it would #1 at both Pop and R&B.

ReduxReview:  Sleek, silky, jazzy, and sophisticated, this song deservedly became a hit. I have to admit that when I first heard this tune I wasn't sure if it was going to be a hit. It seemed a bit too smooth jazz oriented and skewed towards a more mature audience, which was fine for AC, but Pop? Yet the more I heard the tune, the more I hooked into it. There was an alluring, romantic quality to it that wasn't common on radio at the time and that combined with Baker's impeccable performance lured me in. The song's excellent arrangement helped it have a timeless feel and to me it sounds just as good and relevant today as it did back then. Baker stepped things up with this track and it paid off. In a way, she gave us the best that she had because it ended up being her biggest hit and a double Grammy winner. It would end up being the peak moment of her career.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The timing of this single worked out well Grammy-wise. It was released just in time to be considered for '88 cycle of the Grammys. Baker's track record along with the song becoming a major hit played in her favor and the tune would earn Baker four Grammy nominations including ones for Record and Song of the Year. She wouldn't win in those two categories, but she would win the other two for Best Rhythm & Blues Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. Baker's album got released after the Grammy deadline and so was then up for consideration for the '89 Grammy cycle. That allowed Baker to get another nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, which she would go on to win.  2) This song was initially written by Randy Holland. He wrote it about trying to make a career in music happen after moving to L.A. - giving it the best that he had - but then the song evolved into a sort of paean to his wife. Not yet hooked fully into the music business and trying to catch a break, Holland turned the tune over to Skip Scarborough, who had penned hits for artists like LTD and Bill Withers ("Lovely Day"). Holland asked Scarborough to fluff up the song in any way he could in order to get it shopped around. Scarborough added his touches and took it to Elektra thinking one of their artists, Howard Hewitt, could record it. Apparently, Hewitt and some other artists passed on the tune, but then it fell in the hands of Anita Baker. She wanted the tune, but also wanted to make a few changes to it including adjusting some lyrics. She did and in the end all three were credited as writers and the completed song won them all a Grammy. Oddly, after having the hit and winning a Grammy, Holland basically left the music business. He became a real estate broker and eventually moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he opened an upscale fitness center called The Delta. He later sold it and went back into real estate with his daughter and together they own Holland & Co., which focuses on commercial and residential investments.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" by The Robert Cray Band

Song#:  3655
Date:  09/24/1988
Debut:  88
Peak:  74
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Blues-Rock

Pop Bits:  Blues guitarist/singer Robert Cray earned a left-field hit in 1986 with his single "Smoking Gun." Taken from his fourth album Strong Persuader, the song would reach #2 on the Rock chart while making it to #22 Pop. The album would reach #13 and go double-platinum. By the late summer of '88, Cray and his band had prepared the follow-up LP Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. It basically followed the same formula as its predecessor and to kick things off the title track was issued out as the first single. The song would do well at Rock getting to #4, but this time around a more mainstream pop audience wasn't biting and it stalled near the bottom quarter mark of the Pop chart. Another single, "Acting This Way," got to #24 Rock, but failed to make the Pop chart. With those results, the LP wouldn't do as well as Strong Persuader and stalled out at #32. However, it sold well enough to go gold. This song would be Cray's last to reach the Pop chart. The album would go on to win a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Recording.

ReduxReview:  While it was a good song, "Smoking Gun" was a bit of a fluke. Not a lot of blues-rock tunes make the Pop chart and this one came out just at the right time and it gained Cray a sizable audience outside of his blues fans. However, Cray just wasn't the type of artist that was going to have a streak of hit singles. Just getting a second Top 40 entry would have been pretty remarkable. Yet it seems Strong Persuader was just enough blues for many folks so when his next album and this single came out, people had moved on to something else. It did well at Rock and rightfully so, but it was too bad that it got ignored by pop radio. It was another good pop/rock/blues track that sounded good enough to make its way further up the chart. Perhaps if it had a really cool MTV video it might have done better. Still, Cray had enough loyal fans to make the album and his next one go gold. That is a solid accomplishment for a blues artist.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although Cray's time in the pop chart sunshine was brief, he continued to do fairly well in the rock market. His next album, 1990's Midnight Stroll would get to #51 and become another gold seller thanks to a pair of songs that made the Rock chart including the #11 "The Forecast (Calls for Pain)." Although he would only get one more song on the Rock chart in '92, his five further albums released in the 90s all sold a few copies and registered on the Album chart. He has since continued to record albums and tour maintaining a loyal blues-rock following. Over the years, Cray has won five Grammys and has been nominated for ten more.


Monday, October 25, 2021

"Cars with the Boom" by L'Trimm

Song#:  3654
Date:  09/24/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  54
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Hip-Hop, Rap

Pop Bits:  This teenage duo was made up of Lady Tigra (Rachel de Rougemont) and Bunny D (Elana Cager). The best friends from the Miami area got involved in the burgeoning Miami bass scene, which was a subgenre of hip hop that was known for its use of the Roland TR-808 drum machine and heavy bass. The duo began writing songs and wound up recording one for the Miami-based Time-X label in '87 titled "Grab It." The tune was sort of a response to the Salt-N-Pepa hit "Push It." Distributed as a single, the tune did well locally and that led to them recording a full album for the label titled Grab It! and pushing out a second single, "Cars with the Boom." Again, response was strong and that led to Atlantic Records swooping in and making a deal to take the album national. With the broader push, a reissue of "Cars with the Boom" started to gain attention and it would get inside the R&B Top 40 at #39. It then crossed over to Pop and nearly made the top half of that chart. The reissued LP would get to #132 Pop/#55 R&B. A second single, "Cuttie Pie," would get to #54 R&B. The results were promising and the duo got the chance to do a second LP for Atlantic. Drop That Bottom would come out in '89, but it failed to make an impression. A third effort, 1991's Groovy took them away from Miami bass and into more of a club-oriented sound with elements of new jack swing and C+C Music Factory style jams. The change didn't pay off and L'Trimm's recording days were over. The pair would maintain their friendship while moving on to other careers.

ReduxReview:  L'Trimm were certainly interesting. It was as if someone plucked a pair of teens off the street and said - here are some beats, jot some lyrics and rap them in the mic. There was a strange naivety to the girls and their silly lyrics that when married with the Miami bass sound kind of worked. The pair were definitely not good rappers, but it didn't really matter. They made tunes for a certain audience who jumped on board with them. Apparently, the more hardcore rappers of the day were not having it and called the duo out for their fluffy confections saying they set rap back a few years, but there was a market for more fun, innocent, dance-pop rap and L'Trimm were able to tap into that. At least for a short while. This single is utterly goofy, but it is also stupidly fun. It has also earned some respect over the years with Rolling Stone putting the song at #100 on their 2016 list of the Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song would get revived and find a new audience over thirty years later. In 2020, some users of the app TikTok began posting videos of themselves dancing to the song. The tune then quickly started to sweep over TikTok with more users posting videos with the song. In a short period of time, over 1 million videos featuring the song were put up on TikTok. That led to the song getting attention on other platforms such as Spotify (over 2 million streams) and YouTube where a video uploaded not long after the TikTok explosion has now been seen nearly 10 million times. Lady Tigra and Bunny D would be tracked down and interviewed about the sudden resurgence of the song, which was a bit of a shock to them with Bunny D calling is "surreal.". However, they loved that something they created decades ago had found a new audience and has even caused some of their family to view the former hip hop stars in a new light.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

"I'm Not Your Man" by Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers

Song#:  3653
Date:  09/24/1988
Debut:  95
Peak:  74
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock, Blues-Rock

Pop Bits:  This Philly band led by guitarist/songwriter Conwell originally formed as a trio in the early 80s. Around '84, they were becoming popular regulars on the club circuit and attracting attention. Their local success prompted the band to expand to five members and record an indie album titled Walkin' on the Water that was released in '86. It ended up selling quite well in the region, so much so that Columbia Records took notice and came calling. The band signed on with the label and were then hooked up with producer Rick Chertoff (Cyndi Lauper, The Hooters) to record a new album. Chertoff brought along some of his usual cohorts to help out including Jules Shear, Robert Hazard, and Hooters Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman. Together, they all worked on the album titled Rumble and once completed this track got issued out as the first single. It did very well over at Rock where the song ended up at #1. On the strength of that result, the song crossed over to the Pop chart, but it didn't really take off and remained near the bottom for a few weeks. The success of the track on rock radio helped move a few albums and it would eventually peak at #103.

ReduxReview:  Heartland, Southern, and blues rock definitely had an audience in the late 80s, but unless you were Mellecamp or Springsteen, breaking through in a bigger mainstream way was tough. Glam metal was the rock choice of the day and it seemed few folks in the MTV generation were paying much attention to good ol' rock 'n' roll bands. Conwell and his outfit were basically bar rockers and they were successful due to their live performances and Conwell's catchy tunes. It worked well locally, but the question was, would it play to a bigger audience. The answer was yes and no. This initial single certainly found a home on rock radio making it to #1. However, its barroom blues-rock sound just wasn't going to cut it on pop radio. The tune did well in introducing them a rock audience, but it just wasn't the right tune to capture the attention of folks who were taking Guns N' Roses to #1.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The connection between Conwell and The Hooters wasn't necessarily brand new. Both were Philly bands that most likely played the same clubs and ran into each other, but the closer connection came via a Hooters member. Bassist Rob Miller was a member of The Hooters in the early 80s. He remained with them for about a year during which time they recorded and released their indie debut album Amore. Unfortunately, just before the band signed with Columbia and broke big with their second LP, Miller was in a motorcycle accident which sidelined him. He would end up getting replaced in The Hooters. After his recovery, a spot opened up in Conwell's band and Miller got the job in time to record the band's indie debut album. Strangely, both bands had nearly the same thing happen; they were Philly bands who each recorded a successful indie album on the Antenna label that then got them signed to Columbia Records where their second albums, both produced by Rick Chertoff, met with success (The Hooters had much more success, but still...).