Friday, May 13, 2022

"Cult of Personality" by Living Colour

Grammy Alert!
Song#:  3830
Date:  03/11/1989
Debut:  77
Peak:  13
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Hard Rock, Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This band first began to take shape in New York City around 1984. London-born musician Vernon Reid had been working in drummer Ronald Jackson Shannon's avant-garde/funk jazz outfit for a while before taking the initiative to start his own band that was initially titled Vernon Reid's Living Colour. Both the goup's personnel and sound would evolve over a couple of years until a steady lineup that included vocalist Corey Glover was set in '86. The band's hard rock/funk metal sound got them noticed as did their live shows. However, record companies were not interested. It seems they all thought that an all-black hard rock band was too hard of a sell. In a good/bad way, the band ended up getting a bit of a leg up thanks to a music superstar who had a little clout - Mick Jagger. Through a connection, Jagger was familiar with Living Colour and decided to check them out at a gig at the famed CBGB's club. Jagger liked what he heard and ended up producing two demo tracks for the band. Yet even with Jagger's backing, labels were still leery about signing the band. Finally, Epic stepped up to the plate and gave them a shot. With producer Ed Stasium, Living Colour recorded a debut album titled Vivid, which also included the two Jagger tracks. For this first single, the label decided to put money behind an attention-getting video and to make sure MTV was on board (rumor has it that someone at Epic threatened to withhold the video for Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" unless they played "Cult of Personality" - perhaps not true but there was wrangling involved to the the video on the channel). The tactic worked and soon people were picking up the single and the album. The song would peak at #9 Rock while getting close to the Pop Top 10. In turn, the album would soar up to #6 and by mid-April would go platinum.

ReduxReview:  This jam grabbed my attention big time. From the speech snippets to the crunchy hard rock sound to the guitar licks to Glover's big voice to the jazz-funk influence to the potent lyrics to the screaming guitar solos, this track came on the radio and MTV like a wrecking ball. I went right out and bought the CD and cranked it to 11. The track still sounds just as good and as relevant as it did back in the day. The album still resonates as well.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song would earn Living Colour their first Grammy. They would win the award for Best Hard Rock Performance. They would earn their second Grammy later on when their second album, 1990's Time's Up, would win in the same category.  The video for "Cult of Personality" would win three MTV Music Video Awards including one for Best New Artist.  2) The term "cult of personality" first came about in a 1957 speech given by Soviet Union Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev. It basically refers to the lionization of a leader, usually a political figure. To enhance that theme, Living Colour included recorded quotes by famous leaders. At the beginning of the song, a portion of Malcolm X's 1963 speech "Message to the Grass Roots" is heard. Later on, perhaps the most famous portion of John F. Kennedy's 1961 inaugural speech is heard. Then at the end, another very famous section of an inaugural address is used. This time from Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 speech.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

"Run to Paradise" by Choirboys

Song#:  3829
Date:  03/11/1989
Debut:  89
Peak:  80
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  This pub rock band from Sydney, Australia, first got started in 1979. They would spend the next few years performing on the local circuit and honing their writing skills. Along the way they would record demos and one of those happened to find its way to George Young, former member of the famous and influential 60s Australian rock band The Easybeats (and older brother of AC/DC's Malcolm and Angus Young). He got them signed to Albert Productions and in 1983 a self-titled debut album was recorded. Its first single, "Never Gonna Die," would reach #30 in Australia with the album getting to #26. It was a good start, but before they could capitalize on the success, lead singer Mark Gable ruptured his vocal chords and that put the band in hiatus for a couple of years. In '86, they were ready for a return and signed on with Mushroom Records. An initial single was a modest charter, but then in '87 "Run to Paradise" would get to #3 in Australia. A second album, Big Bad Noise, would follow and get to #5. Two further singles would also perform well. With that success, a deal was struck for US distribution and "Run to Paradise" was issued out early in '88. The song would reach #33 at Rock while spending a few weeks in the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. It would be their only single to make the US charts. The album didn't make an impression and failed to chart.

ReduxReview:  Although the band was from Australia, the sound of this single fit right in with American heartland rock. Gable's gravely voice fronted a meaty production of crunchy guitars and big drums. There were shades of Henry Lee Summer and Mellencamp in the tune and it worked well. It was a good track that might have done a little better a few years earlier when this style of rock was more in favor. With glam rock reigning and other genres crowding pop radio, this track was going to be a difficult sell. Still, it was a nice slice of rock.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The band's next album, 1991's Midnight Sun, was unable to capitalize on the success of Big Bad Noise. It featured two mid-charting singles in Australia and that left the album peaking at #30. After a live album, the band was then let go from Mushroom Records. They would continue to be a popular live act and would record a few indie albums over the years.  2) This song got a revival in 2004. Australian DJ Nick Skitz would do a new dance remix of the tune and release it as by Nick Skitz vs. Choirboys. The track caught on and it ended up reaching #16. Skitz had been remixing popular songs and putting them into his own compilations beginning in the mid-90s. In 2008, the compilation Skitzmix 8 became his first to make the Australian Dance Top 10 and from that point through to 2013 most all of his remix compilations had reached the Dance Top 10.


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

"Dear God" by Midge Ure

Song#:  3828
Date:  03/11/1989
Debut:  95
Peak:  95
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This Scottish musician/singer/songwriter had been a member of several bands since the late 60s. Two of the bands, Silk and Visage, would each earn a Top 10 hit in the UK. Silk would score in 1974 with the #1 "Forever and Ever" while Visage would get to #8 in 1980 with "Fade to Grey." It was while Ure was in Visage that he'd get the opportunity to front the new wave outfit Ultravox. That band had been around since '76 and released three albums that got them nowhere. They were on the verge of splitting for good but then Ultravox member Billy Currie, who was also a member of Visage, talked with Ure about helping to revitalize Ultravox. Ure would join and in 1980 the new lineup would issue out the album Vienna. It would be a major hit in the UK reaching #3 and spawning the classic #2 title track hit. They would follow it up with another successful LP, 1981's Rage in Eden. Ure and Currie would then go back and work with Visage for their 1982 LP The Anvil. It did well, but both Ure and Currie preferred to work with the Ultravox crew and left Visage. The band's next three studio albums would all be Top 10 gold sellers in the UK. Along the way, Ure would also step out on his own and recorded a solo album in '85. It would end up being a #2 hit thanks to the #1 single "If I Was." By '87, Ultravox were beginning to unravel and so they chose to call it quits. Ure would then continue with his solo career. He would issue out Answers to Nothing in the fall of '88. The title track first single was a mid-charter in the UK, but it became Ure's first solo song to make a US chart. It would get to #26 at Modern Rock. His next single "Dear God," wouldn't do well in the UK, but it would end up reaching #4 on the US Modern Rock chart and #6 Rock. That action helped the tune cross over to the Pop chart where it would spend a little over a month near the bottom of the chart. The album would be able to get to #88 in the US. It and the single would be his only solo entries on the US Pop charts.

ReduxReview: This pleading song came at a time when Ure's attention was on world issues. Ure had co-written the successful charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas" with Bob Geldoff and the pair would also organize the 1985 Live Aid event. So it seemed natural that his experiences and viewpoints gained from his charitable work would find its way into his songs and that certainly seemed to be the case with this single. Its rolling, worldbeat arrangement made the tune stand out along with Ure's pleading vocal. It was a message song that was easy to digest and it should have done far better on the chart. Ure's solo work was kind of up and down for me, but he had the ability to push out soaring, memorable gems like this one and '96's "Breathe."

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Ure's next solo album, 1991's Pure, wouldn't make the US album chart, but a song from it, "Cold, Cold Heart," would reach #12 on the US Modern Rock chart. Further releases wouldn't chart in the US and his results on the UK charts would also decline. His last significant hit would come with 1996's "Breathe." While it would only get to #70 in the UK, it did well in other European countries including Austria where it reached #1 thanks to its use in popular ads for Swatch. Ure would continue to record and perform over the years and in 2008 he would reunite with Ultravox. In 2012, they would record a new album, Brilliant, which would get to #21 in the UK.  2) Midge Ure's given first name is James (aka Jim). It was while he was in one of his early bands that he got dubbed Midge. It came about because the band already had a Jim and so to avoid any confusion between the two Jim's, Ure's first name was turned backwards into Mij, which then later became Midge.


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

"Funky Cold Medina" by Tone Lōc

Top 10 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  3827
Date:  03/04/1989
Debut:  60
Peak:  3
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  This California rapper made a big, unexpected splash with his first single, "Wild Thing." The song would get to #2 Pop/#3 R&B/#1 Dance and go double-platinum. It was taken from his debut album Lōc-ed After Dark as was this follow-up single. It would be another smash getting to #3 on the Pop chart while hitting #7 R&B and #8 Dance. The single would also sell well enough to go platinum. The hit would help the album top the Pop chart for a week in mid-April. Eventually it would go double-platinum. A third single, "I Got It Goin' On," wouldn't do nearly as well. It could only manage to reach #59 R&B while missing the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This was pretty much the perfect follow-up to "Wild Thing." It was another party-leaning track that cleverly used familiar riffs from older rock tracks. Basically if you liked "Wild Thing" you were going to like this song as well. I wasn't a big fan of that tune, so this one didn't really thrill me either. However, for some reason I found this one a bit more listenable. Maybe it was the Foreigner guitar riff or perhaps the cowbell or just the fact that it is fun to say funky cold medina.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1)  This song contained several samples. Perhaps the most prominent one was the guitar lick, which came from Foreigner's 1978 #3 hit "Hot Blooded." Also included were samples from Funkadelic's 1975 "Get Off Your Ass and Jam" and Kiss' 1977 #25 "Christine Sixteen."  2) With two big party hits and a #1 album to his credit, Tone Lōc's next album was highly anticipated. Cool Hand Lōc would be issued out in the fall of '91 along with a first single "All Through the Night." Both landed with a thud. The single, which featured El DeBarge, stopped at #16 R&B and #80 Pop. A follow-up single failed to chart. With those results, the album was only able to reach #46 R&B while completely missing the Pop chart. It was a major disappointment that basically brought an end to Lōc's recording career. It happens. A star quickly ignites and shines bright, but then fizzles just as fast. In some ways, that may have been fine with Lōc. According to a couple of articles, he didn't necessarily set out to be a big music star and wasn't all that ambitious in trying to keep it going. However, the success of his debut album afforded him more opportunities. He was able to act in a few films including 1993's Poetic Justice and got work as a voiceover artist. His raspy delivery got him work on such shows as King of the Hill, Bébé's Kids, and in the 2022 reboot of the Disney show The Proud Family. He has also been able to keep on performing and has appeared on various 90s music nostalgia tours.


Monday, May 9, 2022

"Rocket" by Def Leppard

Song#:  3826
Date:  03/04/1989
Debut:  61
Peak:  12
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Def Leppard had released six singles from their album Hysteria. The last four were all Pop Top 10 hits, which included the band's first and only #1, "Love Bites." That song had been the sixth single from the LP so since it topped the Pop chart, it was logical for the label to try for a follow up. "Rocket" was selected for release and it would do surprisingly well. The tune would reach #5 at Rock while getting close to the Pop Top 10. Prior to its release, the album had been certified for sales of over 9 million. Over the next decade it would continue to sell and in 1998 it reached the 12 million mark. The LP would spend 96 weeks in the Top 40. That would be a record run for the 80s, but Def Leppard had to share that title with another album, Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A., which had already established a 96-week run a few years earlier. The band would be left with the task of following up their massive hit, but before they could release it, a new rock genre would come along and bring an end to glam metal's reign.

ReduxReview:  This tune with its Burundi-style beat was a good follow up. It had hooks all over the place and was certainly arena-ready. Robert John "Mutt' Lange's production was buff and beefy and loaded with effects. It all may have been a little heavy-handed as half time time I can't make out what Joe Elliott is singing and it all sounds a bit muddy. Yet the track and its multi-layers still captures my attention, especially the album version with the extended mid-section.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1)  The lyrics of this song contain a dozen references to other music albums and songs. These are ones by artists that the band has cited as influences including the Beatles, Elton John, Queen, T. Rex, Lou Reed, and the Rolling Stones. Three works by David Bowie are mentioned by the shout-outs to "Ziggy," "Jean Genie," and "Major Tom." In addition to those influences, the band also included references to their own songs from Hysteria, but they are less obvious. Producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange did some backmasking at the beginning and in the mid-section of the song that included vocals from other tracks on the album. Audio from the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing is also heard at the beginning of the track.  2) The band wouldn't release their next album, Adrenalize, until March of 1992. By that point, Nirvana's Nevermind had already reached #1 and the sounds of Seattle grunge were suddenly taking over MTV and radio airwaves. Glam metal took a direct hit from the surge of grunge and that left some artists struggling to find and/or maintain their audience. Def Leppard would be affected, but perhaps initially not as bad as others in the genre. Adrenalize would spawn two Pop Top 20 hits including "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad" (#12 Pop/#1 Rock) and spend five weeks at #1. It would go triple-platinum, but that was a far cry from what Hysteria had sold. In the long run, it would be seen as a good result coming in the midst of a rock music shift. However, by the time they would release 1996's Slang, their audience had moved on to new acts and sounds and the best the LP could do was to go gold. They would eke out one more gold album before the end of the decade. Despite the demise of 80s glam metal, Def Leppard soldiered on and continued to record and have solid success on tour. In 2019, the band would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.