Saturday, November 6, 2021

"Walk on Water" by Eddie Money

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3667
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  67
Peak:  9
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Money had a career-best single with 1986's "Take Me Home Tonight." The tune topped out at #4 Pop/#1 Rock. It was from his sixth album Can't Hold Back, which reached #20 and turned platinum. With two more Pop Top 30/Rock Top 10 hits as follow-ups, the LP would be Money's most successful of the 80s. For his next effort, Money didn't do much to change his successful formula. He went back into the studio with producer Richie Zito and came out with Nothing to Lose. This first single would be issued out and it would end up being Money's second at final Top 10 at Pop while also reaching #2 at Rock. Oddly, the hit didn't fully spark album sales. It would stall at #49 and miss out on going gold, which was unusual considering the platinum performance of Can't Hold Back along with this Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  Money continued his streak of good singles with this one. It was a well-written track that was perfect for both pop and rock radio. The various sections were all hooky and memorable. Filled out with "na na na"'s and hand claps, the tune was a nice slice of rock ear candy that was appropriate for the time it came out. It only took me one listen to predict the song would go Top 10. Written by Sammy Hagar band member Jesse Harms, it was exactly the right tune for Money.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  There are sections of the song where the melody is carried by a bunch of  "na na na"'s. According to Money, that was not the original plan. Apparently, that melody line was supposed to be performed by a horn (presumably a sax) player. However, for whatever reason the musician didn't show up to the session. With limited time and a need to get the song finished, producer Richie Zito and Money opted to have the line done by voices just singing "na na na." The decision seemed like a good one as it added something memorable to the tune and perhaps helped to make the song a hit since folks could sing along with the voices. However, Money ended up disliking the "na na na" sections because he thought it sounded silly to do them in concert.


Friday, November 5, 2021

"Downtown Life" by Daryl Hall & John Oates

Song#:  3666
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  76
Peak:  31
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:   After three Pop Top 10 album that went platinum or multi-platinum, the famed duo hit a slight bump in the road with their thirteenth studio album Ooh Yeah! It was their first release after moving from their longtime home of RCA to Arista and their first studio effort in four years. While its first single "Everything Your Heart Desires" would perform well reaching #3 Pop#2 AC, the album stalled at #24 becoming the lowest peaking effort of their 80s career. Still, it was able to turn platinum (most likely based on shipping numbers rather than actual sales). After a second single "Missed Opportunity" stopped at #29 Pop (#8 AC), the album fell off the chart. Hoping to turn things around, this third single was pushed out. It didn't do much to help the situation halting just outside of the Pop Top 30 while missing all other charts. That result brought a close to the 80s for the duo. The decade saw them score thirteen Pop Top 10 hits with five of those hitting #1. The success pushed them above the Everly Brothers as the most successful duo of the rock era.

ReduxReview:  Although they would have one more near Top 10 hit in '90 (see below), this ended Hall & Oates' amazing 80s run. It would have been nice if they could have closed out the decade with a Top 10 hit, but a Top 40 effort wasn't too bad. This was one of the better songs from an album that didn't rank among their best. I like that it has a bit more of a rock edge that some of their previous chart entries. The chorus is nice too, but overall as a single it wasn't all that memorable. However, there's no denying that the duo put out some of the best singles of the decade and those far outshine mediocre performing tunes like this one.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The duo would make one more album for Arista. In 1990, they would release Change of Seasons. Its first single, "So Close" (co-written and produced by Jon Bon Jovi), would become their final Pop Top 40 single reaching #11 (#6 AC). The album would manage to go gold although it only peaked at #60. After an extended break, the duo would return in '97 with the indie release Marigold Sky (#95). It would spawn the #6 AC entry "Promise Ain't Enough." Their next LP, 2002's Do It for Love would do slightly better (#77) thanks to the title track reaching #1 at AC. Their final Pop chart entry came in 2004 when their remake of The Spinners' 1972 #1 R&B/#3 Pop hit "I'll Be Around" would eke out a #97 showing (#6 AC). It was from their soul covers album Our Kind of Soul (#69). As of this posting date, the duo's last studio effort has been the holiday-themed Home for Christmas. Both Daryl Hall and John Oates would release solo albums after their 80s heydays. Hall's 1993 Soul Alone would include his last solo Pop chart entry with the #82 "I'm in a Philly Mood." Two of his later solo efforts would generate a few AC Top 30 entries. Oates would release his first solo album Phunk Shui in 2002 and he would follow it up with a few more although none would chart. In 2014, the duo would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Thursday, November 4, 2021

"Finish What Ya Started" by Van Halen

Song#:  3665
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  13
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Van Halen scored their third and final Pop Top 10 single with "When It's Love," the second single from their album OU812. It would get to #5 Pop while topping the Rock chart. Next up for release was this third single. The tune almost topped the Rock chart stalling just shy at #2. At Pop the song inched towards the Top 10, but also stopped short at #13. It was the band's eighth Pop Top 20 hit. The single would help the album sell more copies and by January '89 it would reach triple-platinum status.

ReduxReview:  This goofy little jam was a fun one from the album and it was a good one for pop radio as well. It was nearly acoustic sounding when compared to VH's big guitar-driven jams and it worked well for them. Does it rank among their very best tunes? No, but it is nonetheless enjoyable and should always be included in a VH playlist.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  At the time OU812 came out, Eddie Van Halen was married to actress Valerie Bertinelli, She had become a star thanks to her role on the hit CBS TV show One Day at a Time, which began in 1975 and lasted for nine seasons. After the last episode aired in '84, Bertinelli then just spent time guesting on various TV shows and taking roles in TV movies. In 1990, she got the chance to star in her own TV series titled Sydney. The sitcom had Bertinelli playing a private investigator who moves from NYC back to her hometown after her policeman father passes away. Her brother on the show was played by a pre-Friends Matthew Perry. For the show's theme song, Van Halen's "Finish What Ya Started" would be used. That came courtesy of Bertinelli's convenient connection to Eddie Van Halen, who eventually signed off on use of the song. Alas, the show was not a success and was cancelled after thirteen episodes. In '93, Bertinelli would make a second attempt at a TV show starring in Café Americain. This time around, Eddie Van Halen made a guest appearance on one episode. Yet once again, the show failed aftear 18 episodes. Third time was the charm though when Bertinelli became part of the ensemble cast for the comedy Hot in Cleveland. It began in 2010 and lasted for six seasons. It won several awards along the way including an Emmy.


Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Talkin' bout a Revolution" by Tracy Chapman

Song#:  3664
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  75
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Contemporary Folk, Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  Chapman exploded on the music scene with her first single "Fast Car." The narrative folk-pop tune made it to #6 Pop/#7 AC and helped propel her self-titled debut album to #1. It was a major coup for a folk-based artist and her label tried to keep up the momentum by releasing this second single. The more political leaning tune didn't catch on as well and it stalled near the bottom of the Pop chart while reaching #22 Rock, #24 Alt Rock, #45 AC, and #78 R&B. Despite the low results, the album kept selling and by March of '89 it would be certified triple platinum. Eventually, the LP would sell over six million copies.

ReduxReview:  When it comes down to it, "Fast Car" was a bit of a fluke. Yeah, it was a great song and it ended up playing well on radio, but message-y folk pop was not common among the other sounds of the day. So following it up was going to be difficult. Same thing kind of happened with Suzanne Vega and "Luka." Neither Chapman's nor Vega's albums were geared for multiple singles and that also made follow-ups a real toss up. This second single from Chapman wasn't too bad of a choice, but it was going to be a hard sell with its political lyric content. The song had a sort of 10,000 Maniacs feel, which served it well, but in the end few folks wanted to hear it on the radio.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In an interview with The Guardian, Chapman revealed that her debut album nearly didn't happen. After she signed on with Elektra, she was set to work with producer Alex Sadkin (Duran Duran, Simply Red, Robbie Nevil), but sadly he ended up dying in a car crash before sessions could begin. The label then assigned Chapman a low-level producer with little experience. According to Chapman the recording sessions were a mess. Unhappy with what was happening, she went to the label asking for them to do something, but they told her to just stick it out. After a second complaint that fell on deaf ears, Chapman finally told the label she was going to walk away. Eventually, the label stepped in and hooked Chapman up with producer David Kershenbaum (Joe Jackson, Duran Duran). He understood what Chapman was looking for and the pair ended up creating a Grammy-winning #1 album.


"Spy in the House of Love" by Was(Not Was)

Song#:  3663
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  16
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Funk

Pop Bits:  This group was formed in Detroit, Michigan, by childhood friends Don Fagenson and David Weiss. Needing a name for their collaboration, they came up with Was (Not Was) based the way Fagenson's young son would say certain things. The pair then adapted stage names based on the group name and became Don Was and David Was. Their first recording, the song "Wheel Me Out," got picked up be ZE Records and in 1980 it reached the Dance chart at #34. That result was good enough for the group to work up a self-titled debut album that came out in '81. One track, "Out Come the Freaks," got to #16 Dance while "Tell Me I'm Dreaming" would get to #3 Dance and #68 R&B. Their odd blend of genres along with beat poetry, political commentary, and rap brought attention to the group. Their second LP, '83's Born to Laugh at Tornadoes, gained them critical favor and became their first to chart at #134. Although it failed to spawn a charting single, the album became known for its unexpected guests including Ozzy Osbourne, Marshall Crenshaw, Mitch Ryder, Doug Fieger from The Knack, and crooner Mel Tormé. After a break that had them moving over to Chrysalis Records, they issued out the '87 single "Spy in the House of Love" in the UK and a few other countries. It was only able to reach #51 in the UK, but a second single did much better and that prompted the label to push for a new album and get the US involved. The group prepped their third effort What Up, Dog? and "Spy in the House of Love" was pushed out in the US later in '88. It caught on big time in clubs and made it to #1 on the Dance chart. That along with video support from MTV helped the song cross over to Pop where it made the Top 20. It also got to #77 at R&B. It was a solid start for the group, but their next single would take them even further.

ReduxReview:  I didn't really get into Was (Not Was) until later on, but I did latch on to this single. It was a mysteriously groovy tune with terrific production and a hooky chorus. It really should have made the Top 10. Years later, I happened upon the song "Zaz Turned Blue," which was on Born to Laugh at Tornadoes and was sung by Mel Tormé. It was an odd, somewhat morbid tune done in an old pop standards style and I though it was so cool. It was then that I went back and listed to the group. Born is their most interesting album and my fave, but What Up, Dog? is probably their most consistent and fun. Both are worth seeking out.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  If the name Don Was sounds familiar, it should. While helping head up Was (Not Was), he also branched out to working for other artists, mainly as a producer. It was his work with two artists in 1989 that really took his career to the next level. He would produce a pair of comeback albums that helped each artist reach new career highs. First, he worked with Bonnie Raitt on Nick of Time. That LP would hit #1 and go on to win three Grammy awards including Album of the Year. It was the first of several LPs Was would produce for Raitt. Then he produced The B-52's Cosmic Thing, which featured the two biggest hits of their career, "Love Shack" and "Roam." Both singles would reach #3 and go gold. The album would get to #4 and sell over four million copies. After those two successes, Was became an in-demand producer. He would go on to work with artists like the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Willie Nelson, John Mayer, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Bob Seger, and many others. Along the way he would win five Grammys including one for Producer of the Year in 1994.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

"Tell That Girl to Shut Up" by Transvision Vamp

Song#:  3662
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  87
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This London-based band was formed in 1986 by guitarist/songwriter Nick Sayer and singer Wendy James. The pair filled out the band with three other members and quickly got signed to MCA Records thanks to Sayer's songs and James' sexy, punkish, rebellious personality. The waters were tested with a first single titled "Revolution Baby." It gained a little attention in '87 and reached #77 in the UK. Then they released "Tell That Girl to Shut Up," which did a little better making it to #45 in the spring of '88. Yet the band and their label were looking for something better. Sayer then came up with the song "I Want Your Love." Pushed out as the band's third single, it finally did the trick reaching #5 in the UK and making the Top 10 in several other countries. A debut album was immediately assembled and issued out in October of '88. Prior to its release, "Tell That Girl to Shut Up" was pushed out as a single in the US. It would do well at Alt Rock getting to #9. It crossed over to the Pop chart where it would spend a short few weeks near the bottom. It would be the band's only song to reach the US Pop chart. The album would get to #115. The band's second album, '89's Velveteen, would prove to be their biggest hit at home and in other countries. It would reach #1 in the UK and go platinum thanks to the #3 single "Baby, I Don't Care." The band would also be very popular in Australia where the LP would also go platinum and reach #2. All was great with the band until their third album, '91's Little Magnets Versus the Bubble of Babble. The band changed up their sound and that didn't sit well with MCA. The label pushed out a couple singles in the UK, which didn't do very well and that caused them to shelve the LP in the UK. However, the album was released in a minor few countries like Australia where the band's following was still strong. In the US, the single "(I Just Wanna) B with U" got some attention reaching #14 Alt Rock and #40 Dance. MCA decided to release the album in the US, but then by early '92, the frustrated band just decided to split and go their own ways.

ReduxReview:  I remember critics hating this band. I liked their name and they seemed interesting, but in my small town, I never got to hear them. It was too bad because this punk'd up retro sounding track was something I would have dug. I'm not sure if I would have bought the album, but I would have gotten the single. However, thanks to the lack of availability in hearing them and all the bad press, I skipped over the band. I think they are looked at more favorably now and they should be. I kinda like their bubblegum punk/new wave sound and their first two albums are fun listens. I'm glad I finally got a chance to explore the band.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:   Double Shot  1) This is a remake of a song original recorded by Holly and the Italians in 1979. Chicago-born Holly Beth Vincent headed up the new wave/punk band who moved to London and began attracting attention in the pubs. They would push out their first single "Tell That Girl to Shut Up," written by Vincent, late in '79. While the single didn't chart, it did get them noticed and earned them spots on tours with The Clash and Blondie. They signed a deal with Virgin Records and work began on a debut album. However, the sessions were rife with problems and it would end up taking a year for the LP to get completed. By the time of its release in '81, the band's momentum had all but disappeared. In the US, the song "Rock Against Romance" would be a blip on the Dance chart at #75 and the album would stall at #177. By the end of '81, the band was finished.  2) After the band broke up, Wendy James set out for a solo career. She sought the guidance of Elvis Costello who then decided to write songs James' debut album, '93's Now Ain't the Time for Your Tears. Costello would write ten songs for the LP including five with his then wife Cait O'Riordan. It would spawn three minor singles and only get to #43 in the UK. James would then move away from music, but return years later for a few albums. Perhaps the most successful former member of Transvision Vamp was bassist Dave Parsons. After the band broke up, he became an original member of the UK rock band Bush. They would be highly successful with their first LP, '94's Sixteen Stone reaching #4 in the US and eventually selling over six million copies. Their second album, '96's Razorblade Suitccase, would hit #1 in the US and sell three million copies. Parsons would remain with Bush until their initial breakup in 2002.


Monday, November 1, 2021

"I Did It for Love" by Night Ranger

Song#:  3661
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  75
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After a pair of platinum albums that featured five Pop Top 20 hits including two Top 10s, the band's fortunes dwindled a bit with their '87 album Big Life. None if its singles would make the Pop Top 40 and that left the LP peaking at #28 and eking out a gold certification. Needing to turn things around, the band went back into the studio to record their fifth album Man in Motion. Their intent was to return to their original guitar-driven rock sound and they did so with producer Keith Olsen. However, the one thing they didn't do for the LP was to include a crossover ballad. Their label, MCA, wanted one to help promote the LP because the band's biggest hits were power ballads, not uptempo rock tunes. A struggle between label and band ensued and in the end the label won out. Night Ranger got pushed into recording "I Did It for Love," which was written by Russ Ballard. Not only were they forced to compromise and record the tune, but it was the first one in their catalog that at least one band member did not have a hand in writing. Of course the song would be the first one released from the LP, but MCA's choice of song ended up not being the right one. The single did okay at Rock getting to #16, but it flopped at Pop where it peaked in the bottom quarter of the chart. A second single failed to make either chart while the track "Reason to Believe" got a little airplay at Rock and made it to #48. Those results left the album fumbling at #81. The band had been on shaky ground internally and with MCA before the LP, so after it failed to do much things got worse with main/original member Jack Blades taking off and the band left off the MCA roster. While the main era of the band was over, they would reunite in various forms over the years and record a few albums along the way.

ReduxReview:  The band inadvertently painted themselves in a corner doing power ballads, but was that really so bad? Chicago had a huge career in the 80s doing the same thing, so why not follow suit to keep a successful career going for a bit longer? The album could contain about anything else they wanted, they just need to have at least one surefire hit ballad to keep them going. I mean, I understand artistic integrity and direction, but c'mon. You were on a major label, had two double-platinum albums, a pair of Top 10s, and successful tours. Why mess with that? Eventually the band's fortunes would turn and they could then do whatever they wanted, but why fight with the label and screw up your career even further? It was a bad call on their part and it left them stuck with this single that they didn't write. Russ Ballard is a solid songwriter and I liked what he did on this tune, but I don't think it was the right fit for the band. The commercial pop roots of the tune made it sound like a song that could be done by any pop/rock artist, therefore it kind of made Night Ranger a little faceless. The band was better when they were writing their own songs. People remember those. This just made the band sound bland and their identity was lost. Good song, wrong band. But they brought it on themselves.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  After Jack Blades left the band, he would join up with Tommy Shaw of Styx and Ted Nugent (along with unknown drummer Michael Cartellone) to form the "supergroup" Damn Yankees. The quartet first got together in '89 and quickly secured a contract with Warner Bros. Their self-titled debut album would come in '90 and its first single, "Coming of Age," would reach #1 on the Rock chart (#60 Pop). However, it would be another single, the power ballad "High Enough," that would truly break the band. The song would be a gold-seller that got to #3 Pop and #2 Rock. Its success pushed the album to #13 and it would eventually go double-platinum. They would follow their debut up in '92 with Don't Tread, but is was less successful. It would reach #22 and go gold mainly due to the #20 Pop/63 Rock hit "Where You Goin' Now." The band's success helped revive Ted Nugent's career and after the second album he went back to solo work. Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades formed a duo and would issue out a couple of albums. Eventually they would return to Styx and Night Ranger, respectively. The band would get back together again in 1999 and attempt to record a third album, but neither the band members nor any labels were pleased with the results and the project collapsed.


Sunday, October 31, 2021

"Symptoms of True Love" by Tracie Spencer

Song#:  3660
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  99
Peak:  38
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Spencer began singing and performing at a young age while competing in various pageants. That experience helped to get her a spot on the famous Star Search talent show. As a ten-year-old she competed in the Junior Vocalist category in 1986 and ended up winning. The attention from her victory caused label interest and Spencer would choose to sign on with Capitol Records. It was widely reported that she became the youngest female artist to ever sign on with a major label. Work began immediately on a self-titled debut album, which featured various songwriters and producers. The first single from the album was the ballad "Hide and Seek." It was able to make the R&B Top 40 at #32, but it failed to catch on in a more mainstream way. The more upbeat "Symptoms of True Love" was released next and it would perform much better. It nearly made the R&B Top 10 at #11 while cracking the Pop Top 40 and getting to #14 Dance. Spencer had her first hit before she was even a teenager. The album would end up being a modest seller getting to #57 R&B and #146 Pop.

ReduxReview:  Spencer didn't sound like an eleven-year-old. Her voice was slightly more mature, which worked in her favor as she didn't sound like a little kid trying to make a record. That gave her wider appeal and it paid off fairly well with this jam. While I like the tune, I think it is missing a more substantial, memorable chorus. There is a chorus there, but it just sort of blends in with the rest of the song. I had to hear it a few times before the song sunk in for me yet an hour later I couldn't really remember it. Spencer would go on to have bigger hits, but at least this one got her started and the results weren't too bad for a pre-teen singer.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  When Spencer appeared on Star Search her main competition came from a five-year-old named Alisan Porter. Porter sort of accidentally ended up on the show when she traveled to L.A. with her mom who happened to be coaching a pair of junior dance competitors. A producer for the show heard Porter singing in the lobby of a hotel and was impressed enough to get her a spot in the competition. The youngster won five of her appearances and ended up in the finale alongside Spencer, who would ultimately be crowned the champ. Porter's wins didn't get her a record deal, but she did end up appearing in films like '89's Parenthood and '90's Stella. Those led to her getting the lead role in the '91 John Hughes film Curly Sue opposite James Belushi. The movie was not a critical success, but it did fairly well at the box office. Years later, Porter would once again sign up for a singing competition. Porter was a contestant on the tenth season of The Voice in 2016. She joined Christina Aguilera's team and like Star Search she reached the finals. This time around, she ended up taking home the crown.