Friday, June 3, 2022

"Walking Through Walls" by The Escape Club

Song#:  3843
Date:  03/25/1989
Debut:  95
Peak:  81
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This English band's second album Wild Wild West became a #27 gold seller in the US thanks to a pair of Top 30 hits including the #1 gold selling title track. A third single was called for and this next track was selected. It didn't get very far spending only a few weeks near the bottom of the Pop chart. It would wrap up the run of the album and the band would head back to the studio to work on their follow up.

ReduxReview: This mid-tempo tune was a more leisurely outing from the band. Coming on the heels of two more urgent singles, the song's slightly soulful tone was a nice change of pace. However, it really wasn't single material. It played better as an album track. It lacked a hook that would stand out on radio. The band nearly became known as a one-hit wonder, but then a heartfelt ballad later in '91 would give them a second Top 10. Still, folks will mainly remember them from the kooky, catchy "Wild Wild West."

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The band's third album, Dollars & Sex, would be ready for release in 1991. It would be produced by Peter Wolf (Starship, Wang Chung) with the band writing all the songs including the first single "Call It Poison." Unfortunately the tune got a bit of a cold reception and peaked outside of the Pop Top 40 at #44. However, the LP's second single, "I'll Be There" (not a remake of the 1970 #1 by the Jackson 5), would slowly catch on and eventually become a #8 gold seller (#27 AC). Oddly the hit didn't spark sales of the album, which stalled at a very minor #145. The song came about due to the band's label, Atlantic, wanting them to include a ballad on the LP that could be a single. The passing of a friend's wife that happened while the band was recording the album served as the inspiration for the song. The lyrics resonated with many folks and after being issued out as a single, it began to gain in popularity. It would give the band one last Top 10 hit. A third single would be issued out from the LP, but it would fail to chart and that would be it for Escape Club. They would go their own ways in '92.


Thursday, June 2, 2022

"Voices of Babylon" by The Outfield

Song#:  3842
Date:  03/25/1989
Debut:  97
Peak:  25
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This band's second single from their 1985 double-platinum debut album Play Deep, "Your Love," became a memorable #6 hit. However, after that success the band struggled to get another single in the Pop Top 10. Their gold second album Bangin' featured only one Pop chart single, the #31 "Since You've Been Gone." They needed something better to keep them relevant and so for their third album Voice of Babylon, lead guitarist/songwriter John Spinks took on production duty along with David Kahne and David Leonard. Spinks once again wrote all the songs (one was co-written with lead singer Tony Lewis) including this title track first single. The tune would do well enough to become the band's biggest hit at Rock reaching #2. However, it failed to fully ignite at Pop and it stalled way short of the Top 10. The results left the album peaking at #53.

ReduxReview:  With this single is seemed like the band wanted to create something a bit more mature and different from their typical power pop fare and they sort of succeeded. It was a good album track that seemed to play well on rock radio with Tony Lewis turning in another terrific vocal, However, it wasn't something that was going to be a major player at pop. The chorus didn't really stand out and the tune was lacking the type of hooks needed to lure in the kids. The production has a more European flavor, which was different from their typical US arena rock sound (even though they were from the UK). I appreciate they were trying to expand their sound, but they still needed to bring along the big hooks that made "Your Love" a durable 80s hit.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The Voices of Babylon cover featured a tic-tac-toe style grid and in the spaces were specific symbols. Going clockwise around the grid beginning in the upper left square, the symbols actually spell our the name of the band, Outfield. It doesn't look like it because the symbols used come from a method of switching plain text into a code commonly known as pigpen cipher (there are other names as well for it including Freemason cipher). Based on pairs of tic-tac-toe grids and X's, with or without dots in the spaces, each space equates to a letter of the alphabet. The cipher has been around for hundreds of years and so because of that and its simplicity, it is a highly insecure form of communication. However, it can still be fun, especially for kids who discover it and want to send secret messages to each other.


Tuesday, May 31, 2022

"Like a Prayer" by Madonna

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  3841
Date:  03/18/1989
Debut:  38
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Over the course of three studio albums, Madonna became a music and cultural icon. Yet she didn't follow the path that some suddenly successful pop artist do and simply pump out songs similar to the ones that made them famous. Madonna paved her own road that took her into new territories. No one could really predict where she was headed to next and that was key to her continued success. After the #1 multi-platinum showing of her third studio album, 1986's True Blue, Madonna took a little time to do other things like film and stage work, but there would be the inevitable return and as the spring of '89 came along, she was ready to unleash her next effort Like a Prayer. To kick things off, the title track would be released as the LP's first single. It was treated like an event with a Pepsi promotion and heavy coverage on MTV. The song made an immediate impact on the Pop chart debuting inside the Top 40 and then making a beeline for the top spot where it would remain for three weeks. It was Madonna's seventh #1 and her first single to go platinum. The album debuted at #11 and two weeks later would reach #1. It remained there for six weeks, which still remains the longest run at the top spot for a Madonna album. By the end of May, it would already be certified at double-platinum.

ReduxReviewLike a Prayer was Madonna's most introspective and mature album to-date. She was already a music star, but it was this LP that folks began to truly regard her as an artist. Filled with personal themes, it was certainly a lot different from her previous works with even the music and arrangements taking steps forward. This dark track was certainly the highlight. From its dramatic opening to the stop/start of beats between the verses and the chorus to the joyful gospel choir section, it wasn't like anything that Madonna had previously done. It was art pop as were several other tracks on the album. Yet Madonna was smart enough to make sure there was still some juicy commercial hits among the songs, but even those had a more mature feel. After this, there was no going back. She laid down her artistic statement and set a new bar for herself that for me she wouldn't hit again until '98's Ray of Light. I still think this song easily remains as one of Madonna's career and artistic high points.


Trivia:  Madonna was certainly not a stranger to controversy and it accompanied her when "Like a Prayer" came out. Prior to its release, Pepsi entered into a deal with Madonna for a cross promotion. They would not only be the sponsor of her upcoming Blond Ambition tour, but they would feature her and the song in a commercial. Madonna wanted to use the ad for the launch of the single and so a two-minute ad was created. The commercial even had a title ("Make a Wish") and a storyline that had Madonna revisiting her childhood. The ad was treated as an event and made its debut during the Grammy telecast in February of '89, then again during an airing of The Cosby Show, which was the biggest show on TV at the time. It all was going great until the actual music video for "Like a Prayer" was released. Religious groups were immediately up in arms saying that the video's use of Christian imagery was blasphemous. Even the Vatican protested the video. Groups began to organize protests against Pepsi for endorsing Madonna and eventually they folded under and chose to cancel their deal with Madonna (although she got to keep a $5 million advance they had already given her). Regardless of the reactions from religious organizations, MTV supported Madonna and the video and it went immediately into heavy rotation. Of course the controversy only sparked more interest in Madonna, the video, and the song, all of which came out pretty much unscathed.