Saturday, June 18, 2022

"Electric Youth" by Debbie Gibson

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3855
Date:  04/01/1989
Debut:  62
Peak:  11
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Gibson's second album, Electric Youth, made it to #1 thanks to the #1 showing of its first single, the ballad "Lost in Your Eyes." It was Gibson's second #1 and second single to go gold. For a follow up, this title track was selected for release. It would be Gibson's second song to make the Dance Top 10 (#3) while just missing out on the Pop Top 10 at the dreaded #11 spot. Despite that peak, the single sold well enough to become Gibson's third gold record.

ReduxReview:  After an unusual power ballad first single, the second one definitely needed to be an uptempo tune and this one was probably the best bet on the album. It was Gibson's first sort of "message" song after consistently dabbling in teen romance with her tunes. While it wasn't as catchy or endearing as her previous dance-pop Top 10s, the title hook in the chorus was memorable and the production was nicely done. It was unusual for a pop tune to miss out on the Top 10 yet still go gold. It showed that her fans were showing up buying her tunes even when radio airplay lacked. Gibson would make the Pop Top 20 once more, but she wouldn't get this close to the Top 10 again.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Both Gibson and the video for "Electric Youth" would help inspire a little backstory of a character on a hit TV show. Cobie Smulders was part of the ensemble cast of the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother playing the role of Robin Scherbatsky. The show's first season began in 2005 and as the second season rolled around, the show's creators decided to write a little backstory for the Robin character who grew up in Canada (as did Smulders). The idea was to uncover her past as a teen pop star in Canada who went by the name of Robin Sparkles. Her lone minor hit was the dance-pop tune "Let's Go to the Mall." In the episode, her friends find the music video of the song. The show creators based Robin Sparkles on a combination of Tiffany (hence the mall reference) and Debbie Gibson. The video for "Let's Go to the Mall" had the Robin character dressed up in 80s teen garb, even though the song supposedly came out in 1993 (as Robin put it, the 80s didn't reach Canada until '93). Scenes in the video were reminiscent of portions of Gibson's "Electric Youth" video, which the show staff had used as research. The revelation of Robin's past teen singing career was a highlight of the series and would resurface in a few other episodes of the show. "Let's Go to the Mall" was actually released as a single along with the full-length video. Only portions of the video were shown in the episode.


Friday, June 17, 2022

"I'll Be Loving You (Forever)" by New Kids on the Block

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3854
Date:  04/01/1989
Debut:  68
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  After the initial failure of their self-titled '86 debut album, NKOTB were able to finally break through with their second album, Hangin' Tough. By this point in time the LP boasted a pair of Pop Top 10 hits including the #3 gold-selling "You Got It (The Right Stuff)." For a third single, the label opted to push out this ballad. Written and produced by the group's Svengali, Maurice Starr, the tune quickly caught on and made its way up the Pop chart. It would eventually peak at the top becoming NKOTB's first #1 single. It would also have success at AC (#3) and R&B (#12). The hit would give the group their second gold seller. During the run of this song, the album would reach an initial peak of #7 and would go triple-platinum. Both of those stats would go up later in the year.

ReduxReview:  This sweet tune was a perfect vehicle for the teen idols. Jordan Knight's swoon-worthy falsetto lead vocal was a highlight and it certainly played a part in getting the tune to #1. The song itself was sort of a throwback to the smooth R&B group ballads of the 70s enhanced with a little bit of bubblegum pop. Starr crafted a good tune for the boys and it turned into a #1 hit.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This track had a lead vocal done by group member Jordan Knight. His falsetto take on the tune was reminiscent of of R&B groups like The Stylistics and singers like Smokey Robinson. After NKOTB broke up in '95, Knight was one of the members to later give a solo career a shot. In 1999, he would release a self-titled debut solo album. A part of the album was a collaboration with the songwriting/production team Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. The balance of the album was a collaboration between Knight and and another singer/songwriter that would soon have his own successful career, Robin Thicke. The first single from the album would be "Give It to You." The song was co-written by Jam & Lewis along with Knight and Thicke, and produced by Jam & Lewis. The track would reach #10 Pop (#35 Dance) and become a gold-selling single. The album would get to #29 and also go gold. "Give It to You" would end up being Knight's only single to reach the Pop chart, which sort of made him a one-hit wonder in regards to his solo career.


Thursday, June 16, 2022

"Buffalo Stance" by Neneh Cherry

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3853
Date:  04/01/1989
Debut:  83
Peak:  3
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Hip-Hop, Dance-Pop, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  This Swedish-born singer/songwriter would spend part of her childhood in Sweden and then part in the US when her family made a move. However, in her mid-teens Cherry dropped out of school and moved to London. Once there, she became immersed in the city's punk rock scene and began to perform and record with several bands. She also became involved with the influential Ray Petri-led fashion/design house called Buffalo and it was through that collective that she met musician/model (and future husband) Cameron McVey. The pair would begin to collaborate and after McVey's attempt to kick off a music career (see below) didn't pan out, the focus turned into launching Cherry's solo career. Virgin Records would give Cherry a chance and an initial single, "Buffalo Stance," was worked up and issued out late in '88. It took off in the UK and made it to #3. Meanwhile, the song got pushed over to the US and it rapidly moved up the Dance chart and by the end of April it would reach #1. A few weeks before that, the tune crossed over to the Pop chart. It would make a steady climb finally peaking at #3. The single would sell well enough to reach gold status. The hit prompted an album to be assembled and it would be released a couple weeks prior to "Buffalo Stance" reaching its peak on the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This was another one of those singles that I bought on a whim without hearing it. The title intrigued me and I knew there was a buzz about the tune. I wasn't disappointed. It was a genre-bending, swirling dance track that felt more 90s than 80s. The highlights were aplenty with Cherry's rap and sung portions creating their own hooks alongside that indelible keyboard lick. It was a cool track with attitude that sounded a bit futuristic at the time. I was hoping it would become a big hit and indeed it did.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This song is not necessarily a cover, but more of a reworking of a track that Cherry had previously recorded in '87. Buffalo members Cameron McVey and photographer/musician Jamie Morgan decided to launch a music career together. Their concept was to do vocal harmonies over reggae beats. Their demos got the attention of Sony Records, who signed up the duo for a one-off single to see what would happen. The new duo initially floundered a bit so Sony chose to hook them up with the famous production team Stock Aitken Waterman (Bananarama, Rick Astley). The team along with McVey and Morgan got the tune "Look Good Diving" recorded. A video for the song was then made that featured Neneh Cherry playing guitar and another Buffalo co-hort and soon-to-be famous model Naomi Campbell on keyboards. The single was released under the name Morgan|McVey, but it ended up flopping. It disappeared quickly as did the partnership. However, the b-side of the single would later provide Cherry with an international hit. Cherry would collaborate with Morgan and McVey on an altered version of their song titled "Look Good Diving with the Wild Bunch." On it, Cherry would be featured rapping and singing. The new lyrics included the phrase "buffalo stance," which was sort of a shout-out to the Buffalo collaborative and also to a certain model pose. The song also featured The Wild Bunch, which was a DJ collective that included future star producer Nellee Hooper (Bjork, Madonna, Gwen Stefani). Other members of The Wild Bunch would later go on to form the influential trip-hop group Massive Attack. The b-side slated track was done and that seemed to be the end of it. Flash forward a couple years to when Cherry was starting work on her solo album with McVey. McVey happened to go into a local club where DJ Tim Simenon (aka Bomb the Bass) was working. Simenon saw McVey and started talking to him about the b-side to the Morgan|McVey single. He loved it and asked if he could rework it with Cherry. They all got together and reformed the track into "Buffalo Stance." When done, Cherry and McVey realized they had been sitting on a hit for years and didn't know it. The track was then pushed out as a single and it became an international success.


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

"When Love Comes to Town" by U2 with B.B. King

Song#:  3852
Date:  04/01/1989
Debut:  89
Peak:  68
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Blues-Rock

Pop Bits:  U2's double-album Rattle and Hum was a mix of live and studio recordings. For the new studio songs, the band explored American roots music and the tunes touched on genes such as R&B, folk, and gospel. Up to this point, the LP boasted a pair of Pop Top 20 hits including the #3 "Desire." The band also explored another unique American sound, the blues. They came up with the tune "When Love Comes to Town" and to give the song a more authentic feel they got together with blues legend B.B. King at Sun Studio in Memphis to record it. The track would serve as the LP's third single and it would do well at Rock reaching #2 while also making it to #10 Modern Rock. Over on the Pop chart, the song just didn't quite fit the format and it would stall early in the bottom half of the chart. It didn't do much to spark sales of the album, which had reached the triple-platinum mark earlier in January '89.

ReduxReview:  Of course a little B.B. added to anything makes it better and U2 were lucky to secure the legend for the track. The band did a fairly good job capturing the American blues sound and giving it a rock edge, but Bono sounded a bit awkward. He can often give some soulful performances, but the blues was a little too much of a stretch. The production was also kind of clunky. Yet King was there to save the day and is the one who really made the song work. The tune ended up being a good fit for rock radio, but it wasn't going to happen at Pop. The label probably should have left this as an airplay track for the Rock chart and picked another song for single release.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  B.B. King began performing in the late 40s at blues venues along the famous Beale Street in Memphis. He first began recording songs in 1949 and got his first hit with the 1952 #1 "3 O'Clock Blues." Thirteen more R&B Top 10's would follow throughout the 50s. Hits would be more sporadic over the next couple of decades, but King would still manage six more R&B Top 10s in that time including what would be his biggest hit on the Pop chart, the #15 (#3 R&B) Grammy-winning "The Thrill Is Gone." King recorded less in the 80s, but remained a top concert draw. He had been absent from the Pop chart since 1974, but was able to score this one last hurrah with U2. In 2002, King's career would get a significant boost when he would record an album with Eric Clapton. Riding with the King would become a #3 double-platinum hit that would win the Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. In 2008, King would record what would become his final studio album. One Kind Favor would be produced by T-Bone Burnett and would be critically lauded (#1 Blues/#37 Pop). It would earn King the Grammy for Best Traditional Blues album, his final award. In all, King would amass 30 Grammy nominations resulting in 15 wins. The legend would pass away in 2015. 


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

"Come Out Fighting" by Easterhouse

Song#:  3851
Date:  04/01/1989
Debut:  91
Peak:  82
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This British indie rock band that featured brothers Andy and Ivor Perry first began to perform sometime in '83. Their jangly guitar rock combined with leftist political lyrics got them a deal with London Records and an EP, In Our Own Hands, was issued out in '85. It did well on the indie chart, but it seems London lost interest in the band and so they switched over to the indie label Rough Trade. A debut album Contenders was recorded and two songs from the LP would reach the Top 10 on the UK Indie chart. The LP would make it to #3 Indie/#91 UK Pop. While the band seemed to be doing well and on the brink of something bigger, there were internal struggles that led to Ivor Perry leaving the band. Other members would follow suit and that left Andy Perry the only original member to carry on Easterhouse. He got a second album, Waiting for the Redbird, recorded and this first single was issued out. In the UK, the band's updated, slicker sound wasn't received as well with the song stopping at #18 Indie. The single was able to get a US release and it did much better getting to #5 Modern Rock. That attention helped the song cross over to the Pop chart, but only for a short month. It wasn't quite enough to draw attention to the album, which failed to chart. The band would break up not long after.

ReduxReview:  The band's edgy, guitar-driven political rock found on their EP and first full length album were going to be a bit of a hard sell in the US, but it is what gained them a fan base in the UK. Then with Andy Perry on his own, the band eased into a slicker arena rock sound, which didn't excite critics or fans at home. However, the new approach for the second album was a better fit for the US and so this single garnered some attention and airplay. It had a heartland rock feel with a little Billy Idol sneer. The production was well crafted and made the song radio-ready. I liked the song, but I can see how older fans were not thrilled as it was nowhere near the gritter work of the original incarnation of the band.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  When Easterhouse was starting out, they ended up gaining a fan that would give them a boost. Morrissey of The Smiths liked their sound and politically charged lyrics. The band would end up opening shows for The Smiths and Morrissey would also play a role in getting the band signed to The Smiths' label Rough Trade. By 1987, Ivor Perry had left Easterhouse and began another band. With a connection to Morrissey still existing, Perry was asked to be the The Smiths' guitarist after co-founder Johnny Marr departed. He gave it a go and the band began to record tracks for a new album. However, it seems Morrissey wasn't happy with the whole situation and the band collapsed before any post-Marr tracks could be fully completed and released. Marr's departure and the break up of the band came at an unfortunate time. While The Smiths had solid success in their UK homeland, it didn't necessarily translate well to the US. They mainly remained an indie cult band, but their following grew over the course of four albums. While they would never put a single on the Pop or Rock chart, each of their studio albums sold more than the previous one and in 1987 they had their best showing yet when their fourth effort Strangeways, Here We Come topped out at #29. That might have been the tipping point that could have pushed them more into the US mainstream with their next release, but alas Marr left and the band split. Morrissey would go on to a successful solo career and was able to get one single on the US Pop chart, 1994's "The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get" (#46), while achieving nine Top 10 songs on the Modern/Alt Rock chart including two #1s. Two of his albums would nearly make the Top 10 stopping short at #11. He would also earn two gold albums.


Monday, June 13, 2022

"Baby Baby" by Eighth Wonder

Song#:  3850
Date:  04/01/1989
Debut:  93
Peak:  84
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  After a few attempts to get their career started, this English band finally broke through in the UK with their #7 single "I'm Not Scared." It's follow-up, "Cross My Heart" (#13 UK), would be the song to get them some attention in the US. The single would get to #10 Dance and #56 Pop. This next song would be issued out, but wouldn't do quite as well. It would top off at #17 Dance while spending a few short weeks near the bottom of the Pop chart. The results weren't enough to spark album sales and it would not chart in the US. It would have seemed that the band's pair of hits in the UK would have prompted a second album, but apparently lead singer Patsy Kensit wasn't all that hep to being a pop music star and so the band parted ways later in '89.

ReduxReview:  This tune was right in line with the sound they established with "Cross My Heart." It just wasn't quite as memorable. Still, it was a pretty good dance-pop track. Not having this become a major hit was probably a good thing for Amy Grant who would score her first and only #1 Pop hit in 1991 with a different song that had the same title. Eighth Wonder didn't stick around for long, but at least they pushed out a few good dance-pop tracks.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Patsy Kensit ended up fronting Eighth Wonder at the urging of her brother. He helped form the band and encouraged her to try out for the vacant lead vocal spot. At age 15, she did and got the spot. Five years later in '88, the band earned their first and only UK Top 10 hit. Yet being in a pop band was more or less a side project for Kensit. Acting was her main gig and she chose to leave the band to keep pursuing that career path. She had already been a child actor starting in commercials and then branching out to film and TV. Before hitting her teens she had already been in nine films and several TV shows including a role on the short-lived UK TV show The Foundation. Even while in Eighth Wonder, Kensit would still have roles on TV and some film work, which included her and the band being featured in the 1986 musical film Absolute Beginners. Many more TV and film appearances would follow over the years including being a series regular on the British soap Emmerdale from 2004-2006 and also on the TV medical drama Holby City from 2007-2010.