Saturday, January 29, 2022

"My Heart Can't Tell You No" by Rod Stewart

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3740
Date:  12/10/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  4
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  At this point in time, Stewart's fifteenth album Out of Order was doing quite well. It had just reached the platinum level in sales thanks to a pair of hits, "Lost in You" and "Forever Young." Both singles would peak at #12, which was a good result, but it was slightly disappointing that neither one could dip into the Pop Top 10. Stewart and his label then gave it a third go with this next single. At first it didn't seem like the song was going to do so well, but then it steadily made its way up the chart and finally peaked at #4 in its 17th week. It was Stewart's tenth Pop Top 10 hit. The tune would also get to #3 AC and #50 Rock. Third time was the charm for Stewart and singles form Out of Order.

ReduxReview:  This was a song that kind of crept up on you. I remember hearing it when I bought the album and though it was a nice, lovely tune that was a bit forgettable. But then after a few plays something about the song started to sink in. I think part of it had to do with the sad lyrics. The lines in the chorus resonated. It wasn't long before the tune itself started to ingrain itself into my brain. It also was nicely produced and had a good arrangement. The tune's slow rise up the chart tells me that others may have had the same experience. It took a minute, but eventually the song would hook you.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Simon Climie and Dennis Morgan. Morgan had been a successful songwriter mainly for country artists. In a partnership with Kye Fleming, the pair wrote many hits including Barbara Mandrell's "Sleeping Single in a Double Bed" and Sylvia's "Nobody." Climie was also a songwriter who had a taste of success with Pat Benatar's "Invincible" and with his own duo Climie Fisher on the tune "Love Changes (Everything), which was co-written with Morgan and was a song originally intended for Rod Stewart. After Morgan and Fleming's writing partnership ended, Morgan began another partnership with Climie. Their first major hit together was the #1 "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" by Aretha Franklin and George Michael. They would then go on to write "My Heart Can't Tell You No." The artist they had in mind for the song was Barbara Mandrell. Morgan had a lot of history writing for Mandrell, so it seemed like an easy sell. While it is in question as to what happened, Mandrell didn't get to record the song and it somehow made it over to Stewart who snatched it up and made it a hit. While the tune didn't get to be a country hit initially, it did make it onto the chart later. Country star Sara Evans recorded a version in 2011 and it would end up reaching #21 on the Country chart (and #5 on the Pop Bubbling Under chart).


Friday, January 28, 2022

"Anchorage" by Michelle Shocked

Song#:  3739
Date:  12/10/1988
Debut:  94
Peak:  66
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Contemporary Folk, Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  This outspoken and sometimes controversial artist was born Karen Michelle Johnston in Dallas, Texas. After her father introduced her to classic blues artists and contemporary singer/songwriters, Johnston began to explore various music scenes in Austin, Texas. Along the way she began to work on music of her own. She spent time in San Francisco, New York, and Amsterdam honing her skills while also becoming an activist for various causes and movements. Upon returning to the US in 1986, she ended up doing some volunteer work at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. While there for the multi-day event, Johnston, who had by this time changed to the stage name of Michelle Shocked, played her compositions around the festival's campfire. British producer Pete Lawrence happened upon Shocked and was impressed. He recorded her on his Walkman, took it back to England, and assembled the songs into The Texas Campfire Tapes. Released on Cooking Vinyl in '86, it became a surprise hit of sorts in the UK topping the Indie chart. That led to a Shocked getting an offer from Mercury Records. She signed on and work began on a debut LP titled Short Sharp Shocked. This first single was released and it caused a bit of a buzz. The tune would spend a couple months on the Pop chart while also reaching #42 AC and #60 Modern Rock. A second single, "If Love Was a Train," would get to #20 Modern Rock and #33 Rock. The album would make it to #73 and would go on to be nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording.

ReduxReview:  The timing of this single was perfect. With other contemporary folk artists like Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman scoring hits and bringing new listeners over to the genre, it gave Shocked the opportunity to perhaps secure a hit and gain a lot of fans. While this song wasn't a major breakthrough, it did fairly well on the Pop chart and that along with critical favor brought attention to the album. This tune was a nice, rolling track with that Hammond organ driving it forward. The lyrics were interesting as well. It may not have had a significant hook, but the melody and lyrics along with Shocked's easy, laid back vocal delivery made the song memorable. I do wish that it had at least made the Top 40. Shocked wasn't one to settle on one sound or approach, so her next couple of albums were spotty (yet still interesting). Because of that, she wasn't going to gain a huge mainstream audience, but she ended up with a pretty good following that elevated her three Mercury albums to a sort of cult status. (Note that Shocked is really protective of her catalog, so you won't find her music on streaming services or even YouTube as of this posting date, so no music link on this one.)

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The cover of Short Sharp Shocked featured a photo that appears to show Shocked being held by the neck and/or dragged away by a police officer. That photo was from a real incident. In 1984, Shocked attended a protest at the Democratic National Convention held that year in San Francisco. At the protest, Shocked was confronted by police and arrested. Photojournalist Chris Hardy, who was working for the San Francisco Examiner, was present at the protest and just happened to take the picture of Shocked with the police. A 2003 reissue of the LP would crop the image down to only focus on Shocked's face.  2) Shocked would follow up her debut in 1989 with Captain Swing. While Shocked would still compose the songs, she did them in a more big band swing style. Then in 1992, she released Arkansas Traveler. Done as sort of a nod to the roots of her music, the LP featured various styles along with noteworthy guests and would earn Shocked her second Grammy nomination. It also courted a bit of controversy as Shocked had wanted to appear on the cover in blackface as a tribute to the minstrel/roots music that influenced her songs. Mercury, obviously, quashed that idea, but apparently Shocked was allowed to write about it in the liner notes (with Mercury adding their own disclaimer). With Shocked and Mercury at odds due to that clash and one concerning the theme of her next LP (a gospel effort), she would leave the label (via a lawsuit) to become an independent artist and would release several albums over the years.


Thursday, January 27, 2022

"Is It Love" by J.J. Fad

Song#:  3738
Date:  12/10/1988
Debut:  97
Peak:  92
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  This female rap trio hit big out of the gate with their gold-selling debut album Supersonic and its gold title track single. A second single, "Way Out," couldn't catch on as well (#51 R&B/#61 Pop), but their label went ahead and pushed out this third single. Surprisingly, the only chart it was able to reach was Pop, but it could only circle the bottom rungs for a few weeks. Still, the album was a solid winner for the new trio.

ReduxReview:  After a couple of hyper tracks, the trio slowed things down with this mid-tempo jam. The tune was fine and it worked well as an album closer, but it just wasn't a catchy track that was going to become a chart contender. It also lacked spark and personality. With the song coming off as a ballad, they really needed to emote to make the lyrics come to life and it didn't come off that way. They kind of did a flat reading. The production wasn't all that interesting either. Still, it wasn't all that bad for a fresh young trio trying to find their way.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The producers of the Supersonic album were members of the group N.W.A., including Dr. Dre who also contributed to some tracks as a writer. After the release of Supersonic, N.W.A. would release their classic gangsta rap album Straight Outta Compton. It would be a #4 Pop/#9 R&B triple-platinum success. That was awesome for N.W.A., but not so much for J.J. Fad who wanted to record a new album to capitalize on their debut's success. With N.W.A. now a hot act and getting busier, it affected the timeline of a new J.J. Fad record, which started to get pushed back. Dr. Dre wanted them to delay any recording and wait for him as he wanted to help produce, but the trio felt they needed to dive in as quickly as possible and set out to record their follow up without him. They still retained N.W.A. members Arabian Prince and DJ Yella for production work (they had worked on the debut LP) and came up with 1990's Not Just a Fad. Unfortunately, by the time it came out, it seemed audiences had moved on to other rap acts and the momentum gained by their first LP was basically wiped out. None of the LP's singles reached any chart and therefore the album came and went quickly. With that result, J.J. Fad came to an end. It seems the three members ended up leaving the music business and went on to other work and to raise families. Then sometime around 2009, the trio decided to get back together and become a touring act. Since then, they have been appearing in multi-act shows that mainly featured rap/R&B acts from the 80s and 90s.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

"Straight Up" by Paula Abdul

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  3737
Date:  12/03/1988
Debut:  79
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Dance-Pop, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Abdul's debut album Forever Your Girl wasn't flying off record store shelves. Its first two singles each broke through to the R&B Top 10, but neither single could reach the Pop Top 40. The results left the LP peaking at a very minor #155 Pop. It seemed that Abdul's bid for mainstream success was not gonna happen, but then a DJ in San Francisco started to spin the album track "Straight Up." It gained enough momentum that Abdul's label, who didn't think the song was a hit, decided to give it a go as the LP's third single. With a more national push, the song began to take off. It would become her third and biggest hit at R&B reaching #2 while also making it to #3 at Dance. More importantly, the tune wound its way to the top of the Pop chart and remained there for three weeks. The hit would also do well enough to become a platinum seller. The album would then rebound and crack the Top 20 for the first time. By March of '89, it would go platinum. The third time was certainly the charm for Abdul who went from a former cheerleader and choreographer to a platinum-selling singer in a matter of a few short months.

ReduxReview:  How the label didn't hear this as a hit is just crazy. The honking synth line is one hook, then the synth whistle line is another, then the bridge with the "please, please" was another and that was all before the main chorus even started! Add to that the timely new jack feel and there was no question that the song was a hit. Abdul lobbied for the tune (see below) because she heard something and she was exactly right. While it should have been her first single, I don't think it was necessarily bad that it came later. Her first two singles got her established at R&B and Dance, so that put her name out there. Then this third hit took her to a whole new level and it was as if she got a second, bigger start. I've always waffled when it came to Abdul. Sometimes I'm a bit of a fan, then sometimes not. However, I applaud her for knowing what she wanted and going for it. She basically became a huge star mainly on instinct. It certainly wasn't her vocal ability (although she had a capable, interesting voice), but she had a vision as to what made a pop star and it worked out. It all more or less started with this massive hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Since Abdul's label, Virgin Records, hadn't even considered "Straight Up" for single release, a video for the song wasn't available once it began to climb the charts. They had to scramble to arrange one and paired Abdul with music video director (and later Oscar nominated director) David Fincher. Shot in black and white and choreographed by Abdul, the video started off with a tap dance from Abdul before it broke into the song. The video would also feature an appearance by her friend, comedian Arsenio Hall whose syndicated TV talk show was set to debut in January of '89; just as this song was shaping up to be a hit. Also seen in the video was model/actor and future two-time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou. It was his first video gig and he would go on to do more with Fincher before beginning to land film and TV roles. The video for "Straight Up" would later be nominated for six MTV Music Video Awards. It would end up winning four including Best Female Video and Best Choreography.  2) This song was written and produced By Elliot Wolff. With a couple writing credits to his name, Wolff was tasked to write a song for a new artist signed to Virgin Records. He came up with "Straight Up." Unfortunately (or fortunately), that artist's deal never got off the ground and that left the song available. The tune found its way to Abdul, who loved it and wanted to record it. The label was less keen on the tune and didn't hear a hit. Abdul persisted though and apparently after agreeing to record a couple songs the label wanted her to do, she was given the green light. The song was actually recorded at Wolff's apartment and Abdul's vocals were recorded in his shower. Apparently, the noise didn't sit well with at least one neighbor who banged on the wall. Abdul said that in the original masters, you could hear someone banging and yelling "shut up!"


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

"Kiss" by Art of Noise with Tom Jones

Song#:  3736
Date:  12/03/1988
Debut:  80
Peak:  31
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Synthpop, Electronic

Pop Bits:  Although this UK outfit's 1987 album In No Sense? Nonsense! didn't perform as expected (#134 US), a single from the LP, "Dragnet," would be the used in the Dan Aykroyd/Tom Hanks comedy film of the same name and would win a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. The award was a nice boost, but the group needed something that was going to get them back in the Top 10 in the UK and expand their audience in the US. Inspiration came when they was 60s/70s pop star Tom Jones do a version of Prince's #1 hit "Kiss" on TV. Jones had been including the cover tune in his shows and his performance inspired Art of Noise to get in contact to see if he would record the tune with them. Jones agreed and the track got recorded. Since it was a spur-of-the-moment one-off project, the tune wasn't going to be associated with a new album. So instead, a compilation of previously released songs was assembled along with "Kiss" and pushed out as The Best of the Art of Noise. "Kiss" would be released as a single and it would do well in the UK (#5) and several other countries. In the US, the results were mixed. It would become their highest peaking single at Pop, but it would stall short of the Top 30. It would also get to #18 at Dance and #14 Modern Rock. The album would then peak at #83. While it wasn't a major hit, the video did get some good attention on MTV and it helped folks rediscover Tom Jones. Art of Noise's next album, 1989's Below the Waist, fizzled upon release and the group split up in 1990. They would reunite for the 1999 concept LP The Seduction of Claude Debussy and would perform a few shows over the years.

ReduxReview:  While the pairing of Art of Noise along with Jones was a cool idea and enticing, the end result wasn't necessarily inspired. The song itself was a perfect vehicle for Jones' sexy, smarmy delivery, which is most likely why he had already been singing it in his shows. Adding in the Art of Noise should have made the tune odd and quirky, yet I thought their arrangement was just okay. There are certainly flairs of their synth-based sound and even a reference to their own remake of "Peter Gunn" included, but I was expecting something a bit more out-there and interesting along the lines of "Paranoimia." Overall, I think the final result was fun, it just didn't take the Prince classic to a new level. It kind of came off as a good cover tune that featured an unexpected blast-from-the-past singer.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Prior to recording "Kiss," Tom Jones had been performing in Las Vegas. He had spent a good part of the 80s recording country music. He had some success scoring nine Top 40 Country hits including his lone Top 10 "Touch Me (I'll Be Your Fool Once More)" (#4). Still, he wasn't as massively popular as he had been during his heydays in the late 60s and early 70s. In that time period, Jones earned 16 Pop Top 40 hits including 5 Top 10s (three of those were gold sellers). He would also have ten of his album go gold. His career cooled off in the 70s, but then his turn into country music in the 80s gave him a bit of a second wind. Regardless of chart success, Jones has always remained a top touring performer. "Kiss" with the Art of Nose eased him back into pop. He tried to capitalize on the moment with the album At This Moment, but it only got to #34 UK and failed to chart in the US. However, in 1999 Jones would record the biggest selling album of his career. Reload was a duets album that paired Jones with artist like Simply Red, The Cardigans, Portishead, The Pretenders, and Van Morrison. Three of the album's singles would hit the UK Top 10 including the #3 "Sex Bomb," featuring Mousse T. The hits would drive the LP to #1 in the UK and it would be a hit in many other countries as well. It would sell over 4 million copies worldwide. Oddly, the album wasn't released in the US. However, several tracks would later appear along with some of Jones' biggest hits on Reloaded: Greatest Hits, which was issued out in the US and would get to #127.


Monday, January 24, 2022

"As Long As You Follow" by Fleetwood Mac

Song#:  3735
Date:  12/03/1988
Debut:  81
Peak:  43
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the Mac's 1987 triple-platinum LP Tango in the Night, singer/songwriter Lindsey Buckingham left the band in an acrimonious fashion. Prior to him leaving, the band had already signed contracts for a tour, so the balance of the Mac hired in Billy Burnette to take on Buckingham's spot along with additional guitarist Rick Vito. With the new lineup, the band went out on tour in the fall of '87. They would finish up in the summer of '88. To keep the band's momentum going following the tour and the success of Tango in the Night, it was decided that a hits compilation would be assembled and released. Greatest Hits would cover the Buckingham/Nicks era between 1975's Fleetwood Mac and Tango in the Night. It would include fourteen chart hits along with two new tracks recorded by the new lineup. One of the new tunes, the Christine McVie/Eddy Quintela-penned "As Long As You Follow" would be issued out as a single. It would do very well at AC reaching #1 while also getting to #15 Rock. Over at Pop, the song fizzled before it could reach the Top 40. Despite the lackluster result of the single on the Pop chart, the album was able to reach #3 and quickly go platinum. While the other new track on the LP, the Stevie Nicks-penned "No Questions Asked," would not be pushed out as a single, it garnered enough airplay to reach #37 on the Rock chart. As with many hit compilations by superstar artists, the Mac's Greatest Hits continued to consistently sell over the years and in 2000 it was certified for sales of over 8 million copies making the band's second biggest selling LP after their 1977 classic mega hit Rumours, which has racked up over 20 million in sales.

ReduxReview:  This is a lovely tune from McVie, but I do think it is missing that magic touch that Lindsey Buckingham provided as a producer. As pretty as the song was, it had an older soft rock sound that just wasn't quite fitting in with the other hits of the day. It still had a good Mac sound to it and that seemed to resonate with long-time fans who made it a hit at AC. However, it just wasn't a tune that was going to cut through the rap, freestyle, and glam rock hits of the day on the Pop chart. The Mac would release two pretty awful studio albums before reuniting for the live LP The Dance, which was okay. As of this posting date their last studio LP was 2003's Say You Will, which I enjoyed. But in general, the true prime days of the Buckingham/Nicks era ended with Tango in the Night.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The new lineup of the band would record one album together. In 1990, they would issue out Behind the Mask. Its first single, "Save Me," another McVie/Quintela composition, would do fine at AC (#6) and Rock (#3), but it could only reach #33 at Pop. Further singles failed to chart at Pop and that left the album peaking at #18 and only going gold. It was the band's worst showing on the chart since the 1974 pre-Buckingham/Nicks LP Heroes Are Hard to Find. The band's complicated history continued to be complicated over the years. Stevie Nicks would leave, but then both Nicks and Buckingham would return for a performance in 1997, which was recorded and the subsequent live album The Dance would result. It would hit #1 and sell over 5 million copies. Then Christine McVie would leave the band. She would return in 2014, but then Buckingham would be "dismissed" from the band in 2018. The last time the band recorded a studio album was in 2003 with Say You Will. That was at a time when Buckingham and Nicks were heading up the band. It would be a #3 gold seller. Both Buckingham and Nicks would release a few solo albums over the years while Buckingham and McVie would release an album together in 2017 that got to #17 (and was very good).


Sunday, January 23, 2022

"Wild Thing" by Tone Lōc

Top 10 Alert!
Double Platinum Alert!
Song#:  3734
Date:  12/03/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  2
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  Anthony Terrell Smith began rapping as a teenager in his home of West Los Angeles. Throughout high school and afterwards while holding jobs in real estate and computer programming, Smith continued to rap. While a career in music wasn't necessarily at the forefront of his mind, Smith kept on rapping and eventually he was heard by Matt Dike and Michael Ross. The pair had started their own indie label called Delicious Vinyl. Liking Smith unique husky rap voice, Dike and Ross signed Smith to the label. In 1987, they would work with Smith (now known as Tone Lōc) on his first single, the double-sided "On Fire/Cheeba Cheeba." It garnered good attention and so Dike and Ross began to work up and album with Tone Lōc. By the fall of '88, they were ready to release the new single "Wild Thing." The song suddenly began to take off and started to climb the Pop, R&B, and Dance charts. Eventually, it would reach #2 Pop, #3 R&B, and #1 Dance. The single would sell so well that it would go double-platinum, which was a rare feat at the time. It was also the first rap single to reach that level. A debut album, Lōc-ed After Dark, would follow in January of '89. It would eventually reach #1 and in doing so would become the second rap album to reach the top 10 of Pop chart (Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill was the first). Within a short period of time, Tone Lōc went from obscurity to stardom.

ReduxReview:  This song was all over the place back in the day. Any bar, party, gathering, etc., you went to, this track got played. It was also ever-present on the radio. I was irritated because I didn't like the tune. I didn't like Tone Lōc's rapping, I thought the wink-wink lyrics were borderline novelty and juvenile, and I was bothered by the use of the Van Halen samples. It didn't help that the song's video basically was a rip off of the Robert Palmer series of vids. I ignored the track as much as one could. Time and knowledge makes you look at things differently and these days the song doesn't bother me as much. The production with the use of the VH samples was pretty ingenious. The snippets made the groove very cool and memorable and it is most likely was helped the song become so popular upon release. I'm still not a fan of Lōc's rap or cheeky lyrics, but both pushed the song into party territory, which helped it become a mainstream hit. I can tolerate the tune and even have fun with it in the right circumstances, but it is still not one that I'd see out.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This was another song that got caught in the sampling issues from the 80s. "Wild Thing" contains samples from Van Halen's "Jamie's Cryin'." That song appeared on the band's 1978 self-titled debut album. Although it was not officially released as a single, it became a staple on US rock radio stations.  For "Wild Thing," producers Matt Dike decided to lift Eddie Van Halen's guitar lick from "Jamie's Cryin'" along with some drum lines for use in the track. Stories vary on what happened regarding the samples, but it seems that Van Halen's management, without the band's knowledge, okay'd use of the samples for a small flat rate, figuring that the track by an unknown rapper wouldn't get far. But then the song exploded all over the place with both Eddie and Alex Van Halen hearing it. With the tune making millions, the Van Halen's chose to file a civil suit regarding the use of the samples. The case was apparently settled out of court for about $180k.