Saturday, February 26, 2022

"Let's Put the X in Sex" by Kiss

Song#:  3764
Date:  01/14/1989
Debut:  97
Peak:  97
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's 1987 album Crazy Nights got to #18 and returned them to platinum status. It got a boost from a pair of Rock Top 40 tracks that were also minor entries on the Pop chart. The LP saw less contributions from original member Gene Simmons, who at the time was starting to manage and produce other artists. That and some other internal issues had the band a little at odds. They needed to regroup and focus their efforts as a full unit for their next LP, but before that was to happen, it was decided that an interim compilation would be released to keep fans busy. Smashes, Thrashes & Hits would combine some of the band's best known songs along with two brand new tracks that could be used to promote the LP. "Let's Put the X in Sex" was one of the new recordings and it was issued out as the first single. It did little to help the LP with the song missing the Rock chart and only becoming a minor two-week blip at the bottom of the Pop chart. Still, a hits compilation with new tunes was catnip for fans and within a couple of months the LP would peak at #21 and go platinum. Seven years later, it would turn double platinum.

ReduxReview:  And yet another horny rocker from Kiss. Written by Paul Stanley and his sometimes collaborator Desmond Child, the tune is not all that different from what they had been slingin' out on their previous few albums. Kiss were known for their cheeky songs about sex. Sometimes they would be sly about it, other times more overt and even humorous. It worked well for tracks like "Love Gun," but fourteen years into their career, the joke was becoming stale. Clever innuendo was getting replaced with the humor of a teenager. Meanwhile, contemporaries like Aerosmith were hitting new highs with far better material while newer stars like Bon Jovi were leaving them in the dust. Kiss was always going to have a big, loyal following no matter what they did, but songs like this one were not going to expand their audience.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Although most hits compilations will include the original recordings, some artists opt to include updated versions of the tracks. Kiss chose to do that with the majority of the song on Smashes, Trashes & Hits. The compilation gave them a chance to remix some songs and even update/replace certain parts. While most of these changes may only be apparent to diehard fans and audiophiles, the band made one change that was significant. Kiss' biggest hit, "Beth" (#7, 1976), was originally co-written and sung by the band's drummer Peter Criss. Criss would leave (or was fired from) the band in 1980. His replacement would be Eric Carr. Instead of putting the original version of "Beth" on the compilation with former member Criss singing, it was decided that the song would be redone with Carr doing the vocals. The basic track from the original record was used with Carr singing a new vocal and adding some drum overdubs.


Friday, February 25, 2022

"The Living Years" by Mike + the Mechanics

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3763
Date:  01/07/1989
Debut:  79
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The band's second album, Living Years, didn't get off to a great start. While its first single, "Nobody's Perfect," did reach #3 at Rock, it stalled in the bottom half of the Pop chart. That was a disappointment since their debut album featured a pair of Pop Top 10 hits. Looking to gain back their mainstream audience, the band issued out this next single. The sentimental ballad struck a nerve with a lot of folks and that led to the song becoming the band's first and only one to reach #1 on the Pop chart. It would also get to #1 AC and #5 Rock. The hit would later on earn four Grammy nominations including Record and Song of the Year. With the tune hitting #1, sales of the album increased and it would reach #13 and become their second LP to go gold.

ReduxReview:  If you are going to do a reflective sentimental pop track, this is how you do it. Everything in the tune from the lyrics to the arrangement with the children's choir is perfectly geared to eke a teardrop from even the most hardened soul. The advice given to all songwriters is write what you know and I think B.A. Robertson did that with his lyrics and did it well. This could have easily slipped down the icy saccharine path, but I think Robertson got the message across without weight it down with treacle. The rolling rhythms and sing-a-long chorus only made the song stronger. In the pantheon of father/son songs, this one sits alongside classics like Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" (#1, 1974) and Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band" (#9, 1981).

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This was obviously a personal song for its writers; band member Mike Rutherford and composer B.A. Robertson. The pair had previously written Mike + the Mechanics' first hit, the #6 "Silent Running," so when Rutherford was ready to work on new material for a second album, he hit up Robertson. The pair would co-write five songs for Living Years including the heartfelt title track. In 1986, both Rutherford and Robertson would experience the loss of their fathers. The bond they shared of losing a parent would be poured into "The Living Years." Robertson had written the first two verses of the song before taking it to Rutherford. He would write the remaining verses later. Robertson based the lyrics on his relationship with his father and had actually started to write it just prior to his father's death. He would write the last verse later, which mentions a newborn child. Robertson's son was born a few months before his father's death. The song was finished just prior to the recording sessions for the album and the lead vocal part was assigned to band member Paul Carrack. He easily related to the song because his father died in an accident when Carrack was just 11. Plenty of other people related to the song as well and they made it a major #1 hit.


Thursday, February 24, 2022

"Girl You Know It's True" by Milli Vanilli

Top 10 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  3762
Date:  01/07/1989
Debut:  83
Peak:  2
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Dance-Pop, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  Both famous and infamous, this Germany-based duo of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus were part of one of the biggest scandals to hit the music business in ages and it all got kicked off in the US with this first hit. Morvan and Pilatus were dancers/models who met in Munich. With similar interests and a goal to become stars, the pair set their sights on a career in music. Their first venture together was part of a trio called Empire Bizarre (with a singer by the name of Charlene). They would record the single "Dansez," which was released early in '88 on the indie Munich label Zip. It sold a few copies, but didn't do much to help their career. Things took a major turn when producer Frank Farian happened upon Morvan and Pilatus. Farian was working up a track and needed a couple of vocalists. With their model good looks and dance abilities, Farian brought in Morvan and Pilatus for the job. He offered them a deal and with the young duo wanting to be stars, they signed on without representation or reading the contract. Farian got the pair in the studio, but quickly found out that the quality of their voices were not up to his standards. Needing a finished product quickly due to a show already booked, Farian got other studio vocalists (including Charles Shaw, John Davis, and Brad Howell) to complete the track. Released in the summer of '88 in Germany as by Milli Vanilli, the song began to catch on. Morvan and Pilatus were sent out on some promo performance dates as Milli Vanilli, but they would lip sync to the track. With the song doing well, Farian began to work up tracks for an album. Morvan and Pilatus had asked to be more involved, but Farian basically strung them along and kept them just being the face of Milli Vanilli. With the other vocalists, Farian finished off an album titled All or Nothing and got it released in November of '88. Sensing success, Farian then got Milli Vanilli a deal with Arista Record in the US. "Girl You Know It's True" was issued out and it started to climb the charts. Eventually it would get to #2 Pop, #3 R&B, and #3 Dance. Around the time the song was in the Top 10, the All or Nothing album was revised, repackaged, and released as Girl You Know It's True. Within two months, it would be a gold seller.

ReduxReview:  Girl, we didn't know what was true at the time, but a year later we did. Millions of folks were duped by the deception (including me) and although Morvan and Pilatus were naive participants in it, the blame for all this sits squarely on Farian's shoulders. Although his career would take a bit of a ding, he still went on to form more successful groups, albeit with actual vocalists, and make a ton of money whereas Morvan and Pilatus were left in the dust. It was all so sad. Setting the controversy aside, we are still left with the recordings of a project credited to Milli Vanilli, which can be judged on its own merits. So the question remains - were the songs actually any good? According to some critics and publications, not really. Even prior to the truth coming to light, the LP made "worst of the year" lists including from Rolling Stone. However, 6+ million folks bought the album, so that says a lot. For me, I liked this song when it came out and bought the 45. Its rap/sung approach along with its new jack groove and hooks was a bit different and fun. It was saccharine-laced bubblegum that was perfect for the time it was released. I grew weary of the tune as it was all over the place and I lost interest in Milli Vanilli with their second single so I never got the album. I haven't fully heard this song in years and I have to say that for a product of its time, it holds up fairly well and is still kind of fun.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1)  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the Baltimore-based group Numarx. The group had formed as a DJ collective and in '87 they issued out their first single "Rhymes So Def." It did well locally and even got a little national exposure, so the group then followed it up with "Girl You Know It's True." I fared less well, however the tune saw some action over in Europe, in particular in German dance clubs. That is most likely where Farian heard the track and decided to do his own version. Numark would record one album and a couple more singles before folding. One group member, Ky Adeyemo, who is a credited writer on the song, was also a member of the popular 80s R&B band Starpoint.  2) Milli Vanilli was not Frank Farian's first venture into hiring faces for an already recorded song. In 1974, Farian recorded a song titled "Baby Do You Wanna Bump." He did the vocal parts himself and released the tune under the moniker Boney M. The record got some traction in a couple of countries, so Farian decided to put together a group to perform as Boney M. Of the four people he hired, only two were proven singers. Farian would use their voices along with his own to record tracks for a debut album Take the Heat Off Me. It's first single, "Daddy Cool," would be a major hit around Europe (#65 US). Over the course of four albums from '76 to '79, the group would score ten big hits in Europe with eight of those hitting #1 in their home base of Germany. The group didn't necessarily translate well to a US audience. Their biggest hit in the US came in 1978 when "Rivers of Babylon" got to #30 Pop/#35 AC. The group's fortunes waned in the 80s, but various lineups continued to perform over the years. The difference between Boney M. and Milli Vanilli was that members of Boney M. did contribute vocals on the recordings and other members who did not would later be able to perform parts in a live setting. Milli Vanilli, on the other hand, never got the chance to do either.


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

"Roni" by Bobby Brown

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3761
Date:  01/07/1989
Debut:  92
Peak:  3
Weeks:  17
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Brown's second single from his LP Don't Be Cruel, "My Prerogative," would become his first and only to reach #1 on the Pop chart. The song would be a gold seller that also topped the R&B chart. To follow up that major success, this next track was selected for release. It would become another hit for Brown reaching #2 R&B and #3 Pop. The single's success would help drive the album to #1 on the Pop chart where it would remain for six non-consecutive weeks. By May, the LP would reach the 4x platinum sales mark.

ReduxReview:  This slick jam written by Babyface and Darnell Bristol was a good follow up to his previous two new jack hits including the slammin' "My Prerogative." The tune's silky mid-temp groove kept it from being a true ballad and that was a good thing. It was able to show a different side of Brown without deviating too much from the crossover potential he, L.A. Reid, and Babyface were going for. It was during the chart run of this song that the LP finally made it to #1 at Pop, so the single certainly did its job.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The "Roni" in Brown's song could be interpreted as a name, but is more commonly know as being short for "tenderoni," a slang term for a sweet young girl - usually someone that's a bit too young or immature to get involved with. While it seems no one really knows how tenderoni came to have this meaning, the original origin of the word comes from a food product. Tenderoni was a quick-cooking macaroni product put out by the Van Camp company starting in the 1930s. The strands of thin, hollow pasta were known for being very tender when cooked and not as starchy as a regular pasta like spaghetti. Somehow this fast cooking tender pasta got equated to a young female (or male as well) sometime in the 70s. Its first use in a song seems to have been in the 1975 O'Jays track "She's Only a Woman" from their album Family Reunion. Near the end of the song, the vocalist ad libs "just a tenderoni" when describing the woman in the lyrics. The track was not released as a single. Then in 1976, Eddie Kendricks recorded the song "Sweet Tenderoni" for his LP Goin' Up in Smoke. It was not released as a single. In 1982, the word popped up in Michael Jackson's #10 Pop hit "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)." Soul singer Leon Haywood's final charting single at R&B was the 1984 #22 "Tenderoni," which he wrote. Two years later, R&B singer O'Bryan recorded a different "Tenderoni" for his album Surrender. The song would get to #35 R&B. But then the term got a major boost when Bobby Brown's "Roni" became a crossover hit.


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

"Way Cool Jr." by Ratt

Song#:  3760
Date:  01/07/1989
Debut:  96
Peak:  75
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  After two multi-platinum albums, Ratt's third album, '86's Dancing Undercover, signaled a dip in their popularity. With the LP failing to generate a Pop Top 40/Rock Top 10 hit, the LP would halt at #26. Still, the band's popularity and their high profile spots on tours with the likes of Poison helped the album go platinum. For their fourth album, the band opted to work with producer Mike Stone, but initial tapes from the sessions didn't meet the expectations of Atlantic Records. The label decided to step in and hired back Beau Hill, who had produced Ratt's previous three LPs, to fix up the tracks. Reach for the Sky was finally completed and this first single was issued out. It did fairly well at Rock reaching #16, but it couldn't make much headway on the Pop chart. A second single failed to make either chart. Regardless of those results, the album was once again supported by fans and it would get to #17 and go platinum.

ReduxReview:  I think what weighed down this song was the production. It was so thick and mucky that it didn't allow the song to breathe. The tune got stuck among the noodling guitars and production effects. There were some synth/horn lines that were nice adds to the arrangement, but you can barely hear them over the din of everything else going on. While I don't think the track would have been a Top 10 contender, I think it would have done a lot better had the production gotten cleaned up. It needed to be crisp and coherent to make any mainstream headway. Had they done that and paired it will a super cool video, the song would have had a much better chance. Unfortunately, what came out was just messy.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Although their albums were still selling well, Ratt wanted to get back to their Top 10 multi-platinum days so for their fifth album, Detonator, they brought in a ringer to help them achieve that goal. Songwriter/producer Desmond Child was hired in to work with the band. His recent commercial successes with Bon Jovi and Aerosmith convinced Ratt that Child was the right person to get them back into chart fighting shape. Child would co-write all of the tracks on 1990's Detonator and also serve as executive producer. Child's long-time engineer Arthur Payson would serve as the LP's producer. On paper it all looked great, but then the LP was released. While it would featured a pair of Rock Top 40 entries, the album's newer pop/rock/glam sound didn't excite fans. It would peak at #23 and only reach gold-level sales. With that result, the band's prime days came to a close. Ratt's history, like a lot of band's after their heydays, became complicated with a couple of reunions, lineup changes, two competing versions of the band, and a couple of albums including 2010's #30 Infestation.


Monday, February 21, 2022

"I Wanna Be Loved" by House of Lords

Song#:  3759
Date:  01/07/1988
Debut:  97
Peak:  58
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  The rock band Giuffria, formed by keyboardist Gregg Giuffria, had a promising start with their self-titled 1984 album reaching #26 and generating the #15 Pop/#3 Rock single "Call to the Heart." Their second album, '86's Silk + Steel saw less promotion from their label (MCA) and the results were not nearly as good as their debut. The band left MCA and began recording demos to shop around for another deal. Unfortunately, during the process the band decided to split. Undeterred, Gregg Giuffria set out to find another deal with the demos. One person who liked what he heard was Gene Simmons of Kiss. Simmons was just setting out to start his own label, Simmons Records (via RCA), and chose to sign Giuffria as his first artist. Giuffria wanted to get his former band back together for the venture, but Simmons required Giuffria to hire a new lead singer and change the name. Giuffria agreed and House of Lords was born. Work began on a self-titled debut album and when finished this first single was issued out. It didn't get very far peaking at #43 Rock and stalled in the bottom half of the Pop chart. With that result, the album could only reach #78.

ReduxReview:  This hard rock/glam metal tune was more or less on par with others by similar bands of the day. It was a good track that was nicely produced, but there was really nothing special about it that could have taken it further. To keep up with the likes of Poison, Def Leppard, and  Mötley Crüe, they needed something better than this. The talent was there, but to break out wide, they needed stronger material.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The band's second album, 1990's Sahara, wouldn't do much to advance their career (#121). However, it did result in their lone Rock Top 10 hit. For the LP, the band chose to cover the 1969 Blind Faith classic "Can't Find My Way Home" (written and originally sung by band member Steve Winwood). The House of Lord's cover version would make its way to #10 at Rock. It did not chart at Pop. A second single, "Remember My Name," would get to #20 Rock while becoming a minor chart entry at Pop (#72). After that LP, the band left Simmons and moved over to Polygram for 1992's Demons Down. It would come and go quickly. The band would split up a year later. Like many bands, they would reform down the road. They got back together in 2000 and through various lineups have recorded and toured over the years.


Sunday, February 20, 2022

"Dreamin'" by Vanessa Williams

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3758
Date:  01/07/1989
Debut:  98
Peak:  8
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Williams kicked off her singing career with a 1988 debut album titled The Right Stuff. The title track would be the first single and it did well at R&B (#4) and Dance (#1). However, it didn't do as well at Pop where it stalled outside of the Top 40. A second single would also make the R&B Top 10, but fail to reach the Pop chart. Still looking for a bigger mainstream hit, Williams pushed out this ballad from the album. It was exactly the right choice with the tune hitting #1 R&B and #2 AC while becoming her first to make the Pop Top 10. With that result, the album sold enough to go gold and reach #36 Pop/#18 R&B. It was a good start for the former Miss America.

ReduxReview:  Williams was lucky to get this tune. The original version (see below) was certainly hit-worthy, but it seems that it just didn't get promotional push from Motown and therefore it didn't get anywhere. That was an advantage for Williams who got the tune through the original's producer. With him also producing it for Williams, her version was not all that different from the original. It was perhaps a little slicker thanks to what I would assume was a bigger budget, but in general the productions are similar. However, the main difference was that Williams' debut album got a lot of attention right off the bat and her first single was a solid R&B/Dance hit. That momentum helped when this tune was issued out. I thought it was a really nice track and I even bought the single. It holds up well and it did a lot towards establishing a music career for Williams.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the family vocal group Guinn. Their version appeared on a 1986 self-titled debut album. It was released as a single, but it failed to chart. Guinn was made up of six Philadelphia siblings (Bonnie, Earl, Margie, Michael, Randy, and Skip) along with singer Lori Fulton. Some of the siblings had been performing in groups since the 70s, but they came together early in the 80s and released a 1984 single titled "Prove It to Me" for the local indie Philly World label. It seems the tune got the attention of Motown Records who ended up signing the group. Their self-titled debut album was ready in 1986, but it went nowhere upon release. A couple years later, one of the producers on the Guinn album, Donald Robinson, found himself working with Vanessa Williams on her debut album. Having co-produced "Dreamin'," Robinson brought the song (written by Lisa Montgomery and Geneva Paschal) to Williams. Robinson and Williams recorded the tune and it would go on to become Williams' first Pop Top 10 hit. One of the singers to provide background vocals for Williams' hit was former Guinn member Lori Fulton. She had been the lead singer for the original Guinn recording.