Saturday, July 2, 2022

"Little Jackie Wants to Be a Star" by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam

Song#:  3867
Date:  04/15/1989
Debut:  81
Peak:  29
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B


Pop Bits:  This outfit's first two albums were platinum sellers that generated six R&B Top 10s and three Pop Top 10s. Within that haul, two of the singles reached #1 on both charts, "Head to Toe" and "Lost in Emotion." That success set them up well for their third album Straight to the Sky. Working once again with the songwriting/production team of Full Force, the group issued out this first single from the album. It would do well at R&B reaching #3, but it faltered a bit at Pop only cracking the Top 30. Two more singles would be released from the album that fared less well at R&B and failed to reach the Pop chart. With those results, the album stopped at #18 R&B/#77 Pop and missed going gold.

ReduxReview:  I remember seeing this single in the record store. I hadn't heard it yet, but since I liked the group's previous singles I just went ahead and bought the 45. I probably should have waited. I just didn't get it. The tune wasn't anything like their previous hits. It was a breezy, meandering story song that never fully took flight. I've always found the title and chorus to be a bit awkward. It just didn't flow well. Overall, the tune wasn't one of the group's best efforts.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam would put out one more album in 1991. Straight Outta Hell's Kitchen would be a weak performer (#133 Pop/#29 Pop) despite featuring the #1 R&B/#38 Pop hit "Let the Beat Hit 'Em." That song along with others on the album was a collaboration with the Robert Clivill├ęs/David Cole writing/production team who had success in 1990 with their own outfit C+C Music Factory and the #1 "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)." Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam would part ways in 1991. Lisa Lisa would try for a solo career and record a debut album, LL77, in 1994. It featured a pair of lower charting R&B singles including the #38 "Skip to My Lu." The album would fail to chart. Lisa Lisa would also do a bit of acting as well. She had a recurring role on the 2001 Nickelodeon teen sitcom Taina. The show would only last two seasons.

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Friday, July 1, 2022

"Giving Up on Love" by Rick Astley

Song#:  3866
Date:  04/15/1989
Debut:  89
Peak:  38
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop


Pop Bits:  Astley's second album, Hold Me in Your Arms, got kicked off in a good way with its first single "She Wants to Dance with Me" becoming his fourth consecutive Pop Top 10 (#6). Unlike his debut album that was nearly all written and produced by the Stock Aitken Waterman team, Astley had more control and wrote seven of the LP's ten tracks including that first single and this follow up. Unfortunately, the song would break his streak of Top 10s and peak just inside the Top 40. It would do better at AC where it topped out at #11. By this point in time, the album had already peaked at #19 and gone gold. Without a more significant second hit, the LP would miss out on platinum status, which was a significant decrease from the double-platinum level of his debut.

ReduxReview:  For a US pop audience, this track was probably a better choice than the one released in the UK (see below). Still, it wasn't a strong single candidate. It was a good pop tune written by Astley, but it wasn't nearly as catchy as his previous singles. Astley was trying to branch out on his own and prove he wasn't just an SAW puppet and I can appreciate that. However, he probably would have benefited from collaborating with another hit making writer/producer that could have helped in the transition. Astley just didn't have the skill level to consistently churn out tunes with hit potential and more exposure to someone who could do that might have helped him along. Again, this was competent pop tune that was a good album track, just not one that was going to burn up the chart.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In the US and the UK/Europe, "She Wants to Dance with Me" would serve as the first single from Hold Me in Your Arms (the song got to #6 in the UK). However, the follow up singles for the territories were different. In the US, "Giving Up on Love" would be the second single followed by the cover tune "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." UK/Europe would get different tracks. The second single in those territories was the SAW written/produced tune "Take Me to Your Heart." It would reach #8 in the UK. It was possibly selected as the second single due to SAW's continued winning streak of hits in the UK. However, their manufactured sounds seemed to be going out of favor in the US and that perhaps prompted one of Astley's own songs to be issued as the second single instead. The third single in the UK/Europe would be another Astley composition "Hold Me in Your Arms." It would become Astley's seventh consecutive UK Top 10 reaching #10.

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Thursday, June 30, 2022

"Stop!" by Sam Brown

Song#:  3865
Date:  04/15/1989
Debut:  93
Peak:  65
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul


Pop Bits:  Born into a musical family, English singer/songwriter Sam Brown got started in the business at an early age. Just into her teens, she began to work as a session background vocalist for artists like Spandau Ballet, Adam Ant, Dexys Midnight Runners, Tina Turner, David Gilmour, and others. Along the way she perfected her writing skills and by '86 she was able to sign a contract with A&M Records. Her first single for the label, "Walking Back to Me," would be issued out early in '88. It failed to chart. Next up for release was "Stop!" It would get a little attention and make it to #52 in the UK. Her debut album Stop! would be issued out in August of '88 along with a third single "This Feeling," which could only scrape the UK chart at #91. Still believing in Brown and thinking she just didn't get the right break, A&M would reissue "Stop!" near the beginning of '89. With a better push, the song finally caught on and got to #4 in the UK. The hit prompted A&M to then release the song in the US. It would make the Pop chart, but was unable to catch on in a major way and stopped short of the halfway mark. With that result, the album failed to chart in the US. Back at home in the UK, the LP would become a #4 gold seller and feature another Top 20 hit.

ReduxReview:  By the time Brown was ready to release her debut album, she had already been in the music business for almost a decade and that experience paid off. Brown had a terrific voice and she sounded confident and in charge on her debut. She had the ability to write some good tunes as well and this scorching ballad was one. The dark soul tune had a retro feel and featured a star-making vocal turn by Brown. The Hammond organ solo was also a nice add. Thankfully the song got a second chance in the UK and became a hit. It was too bad that the US didn't catch on in the same way. It really should have done far better, but a fiery old school soul tune was going to be a tough sell to US pop stations and indeed the single stalled early. It's still a cool song and is way overdue for a revival.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Brown's second album, 1990's April Moon, wouldn't match the success of her debut. It featured one UK Top 30 single and could only manage to reach #38. Brown would write music for her third album at a time when her mother was dying from cancer. She would begin recording the tracks in '92 following her mother's death. Brown finished the LP 43 Minutes and turned it into A&M. It seems they thought artistically it was a good album, but that it had no commercial viability. They asked that she record a cover tune for the LP so it could have a potential hit. Brown decided to stand by her work and refused the label's request. In the end, Brown would leave the label and purchase the rights to the album. She would release it on her own in '93. Without the backing of a sizable label, the album would only sell a few thousand copies. However, several critics were impressed with Brown's work. She would record a few more indie albums over the years while working with other artists as a featured or backup singer, which included performing on Pink Floyd's 1994 The Division Bell and touring with the band.  2) Brown's parents were both music artists. Her mother, Vicki Brown, had been a member of two popular 60s UK female vocal groups, The Vernons Girls and The Breakaways. She also began a career as a session vocalist and appeared on many recordings including ones by The Kinks, Elton John, Robert Palmer, and George Harrison. She would also sing backup vocals on her daughter's Stop! album. Sam Brown's father was rock 'n' roll singer/guitarist Joe Brown. His peak of popularity as a recording artist came in the early 60s when he scored three UK Top 10 hits. He would later branch out to TV as a game show host.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

"Closer Than Friends" by Surface

Song#:  3864
Date:  04/15/1989
Debut:  95
Peak:  57
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B


Pop Bits:  This trio's self-titled '86 debut album did well (#11 R&B/#55 Pop) thanks to a pair of R&B Top 10s including the #2 "Happy," which also got to #20 Pop/#24 AC. By the fall of '88, Surface had prepared their second album 2nd Wave. To kick things off, the track "I Missed" was issued out as the first single. It would become their third R&B Top 10 reaching #3, but it would not make the Pop chart. Then this next single was pushed out. The tune would become the trio's first R&B #1. This time around, the song would get on the Pop chart, but it couldn't quite get inside the Top 50. However, a third single would help break the band much wider.

ReduxReview:  After "Happy" made the Pop Top 20, it seemed like the trio was on the brink of bigger mainstream success, but they had a slight setback in that when the new jack swing "I Missed" failed to gain pop support. This mid-tempo second single was a bit more appealing to a pop audience and it at least got on the chart. It was a nice tune that was sort if in the vein of Freddie Jackson. The easy groovin' track had highlights like Bernard Jackson's vocals, but then it also had another unfortunate spoken word part, which for whatever reason the trio like to do. I don't think it did them any favors.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  David Townsend was a member of Surface and co-writer of this song. Townsend developed an interest in music at a young age and was most likely influenced by his dad, who had a career in music. Ed Townsend was a musician/singer/songwriter that started to get some of his songs published and recorded by other artists around 1956. Along the way he was able to record a few singles of his own, but they didn't get anywhere. He still continued to hawk his tunes to others and he had one in particular that he was trying to get to Nat King Cole via Columbia Records. After listening to Townsend and his song, Columbia like both enough to sign Townsend and have him record the tune. "For Your Love" was released in '58 and it would go on to reach #7 R&B/#13 Pop. Unfortunately, it would end up being Townsend's only major hit. He would continue to record singles for various labels over the years, but nothing stuck. However, he continued to supply song to many artists over the years including for the soul group The Impressions. Townsend would write and produce three R&B Top 3 hits for the group including the 1974 #1 (#17 Pop) "Finally Got Myself Together (I'm a Changed Man)." Yet it was a collaboration in 1973 that perhaps earned Townsend his biggest accolades. He would co-write and co-produce songs with superstar Marvin Gaye for Gaye's classic Grammy-nominated LP Let's Get It On. Their title track collaboration would end up becoming a major #1 hit on both the R&B an Pop charts.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

"Cuddly Toy (Feel for Me)" by Roachford

Song#:  3863
Date:  04/15/1989
Debut:  97
Peak:  25
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Soul


Pop Bits:  This British soul/pop band was headed up by Andrew Roachford. Roachford picked up music quickly as a kid playing piano. In his teens he started performing in clubs alongside his uncle, who was a jazz saxophonist. Over the years Roachford's experience grew and by the mid-80's he was ready to step out and form his own group. He would hire in three other musicians and together they became Roachford in 1987. They quickly garnered attention getting opening slots for artists like Terence Trent D'Arby and it didn't take long for labels to notice. Columbia Records came along and felt strongly enough about the band to sign them to a seven album deal - a bold move at the time. They began recording songs for an album and in the summer of '88 they released their first single "Family Man." It didn't get anywhere so then the label pushed out "Cuddly Toy." It made a minor dent on the UK chart at #61. A self-titled album was then released in the fall of '88 followed by a third single that barely scraped the chart. Columbia was disappointed the band hadn't really broken through yet, so it was decided that "Cuddly Toy" would be reissued and given a bigger push. The second time around the song clicked and got to #4 in the UK. With that results, Columbia then got the tune issued out in the US with the adjusted titled "Cuddly Toy (Feel for Me)." The tune got some attention cracking the Pop Top 30 while getting to #34 Dance. In turn, their debut album would be able to top out at #109. "Cuddly Toy" would be the band's only single to reach a US chart. They had better luck in the 90s in their UK homeland.

ReduxReview:  Here is one that I don't remember hearing at all. I remember the band name as it sort of stood out, but I have no recollection of this Top 30 entry. It's a pretty good rock 'n' soul jam that kinda sounds like a cross between Terence Trent D'Arby and Living Colour. It picked up airplay somewhere back in the day, but certainly not where I lived. I can't say that is is a lost gem of the decade, but it was an interesting find. The album had some interesting tracks, but none of them were going to take Roachford any further on the charts. Their audience back home was more receptive and they were lucky to carve out a pretty good career in the 90s.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) "Cuddly Toy" was a song that Andrew Roachford had written as a sort of in-joke for the band. They would usually play it near the end of their sets to their own amusement and didn't intend to record the tune. However, after most of the tracks for their debut album had been recorded, the label wanted one more song and asked about the one they played in their sets. The label A&R folks loved the tune, but when Roachford told them it was "Cuddly Toy," they balked at the titled saying no one would take a song with that title seriously and wanted a name change. Roachford said no, the title stays. The label gave in and the song not only made the album, but would become their one and only Top 10 in the UK. (Note that this is not the first song to use the title "Cuddly Toy." A song by the same title was written by Harry Nilsson and recorded by The Monkees in 1967. It was not released as a single. Nilsson would record the song himself for his '67 second album. It wasn't released as a single either.)  2) Although this song would be Roachford's only charting single in the US, they remained popular back home in the UK. Over the course of four albums (two of those would go gold) the band would grab eight Top 40 hits. After their contract with Columbia expired, the band went their own ways with Andrew Roachford heading out on a solo career. In 2010, Roachford would become a member of a reformed Mike + the Mechanics. He would tour with them and to-date record three albums, two of which made the UK Top 10. Roachford would also get on the UK album chart in 2020. His collaboration album with singer Beverly Knight, Twice in a Lifetime, would get to #31.

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Monday, June 27, 2022

"Patience" by Guns N' Roses

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3862
Date:  04/08/1989
Debut:  66
Peak:  4
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock


Pop Bits:  By this point in time, the band's debut album Appetite for Destruction had hit #1, sold over seven million copies, and spawned three Pop Top 10 hits including the #1 "Sweet Child O' Mine." It was also nearly two years old. Released in the summer of '87, it took a long while for the LP to finally take off. When it did, it kept the band busy and unable to record new material. To keep up their momentum, it was decided that a stop-gap album would be assembled and pushed out. Titled G N' R Lies, the LP consisted of four tracks from their 1986 EP Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide and four acoustic style tracks. Of those four acoustic tracks, one had been previously used as a b-side, one was a re-recording of a track from Appetite, and two were new. The album got released in late November of '88 and by March of '89 it was already certified double-platinum. Then in April as the single "Paradise City" was wrapping up its chart run, the band went ahead and issued out this single from the new album. The ballad would quickly rise up the charts getting to #4 Pop and #7 Rock. It would sell well enough to go gold. The hit would push the LP to a new peak of #2 and by August it had sold another million copies. No other singles would be released from the album.

ReduxReview:  This acoustic ballad was a major change of pace for the band and it was the perfect single to release after a series of scorching glam metal tracks. It showed that the band could be just as lovelorn and sappy as any other artist. I liked that the recording of the song nearly sounded like a spontaneous session and the way Rose's voice went up the octave for the final stretch. I enjoyed the song and was really the only one on G N' R Lies that was truly memorable or worth anything. The balance were toss away things with one that should have been put in the trash and never seen the light of day (see below). Sadly, the lingering taste of the controversy sort of tainted this song because it was associated with the album. That's too bad as I still like this anomaly from the band's catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Where Guns N' Roses went, controversy would typically follow and that certainly was the case with G N' R Lies in a couple of ways. First, the original cover image sparked some backlash. It was done like a tabloid newspaper with headlines and articles that included the track titles. It also had some unfortunate "story" headlines like "Wife-beating has been around for 1,000 years." A couple of these lines would be replaced on further pressings. Second, the new song "One in a Million" proved very controversial and dogged the band for years. Axl Rose's lyrics included the n-word and a derogatory term for gay men. Many people, including rock music critics, denounced the track as being racist and homophobic. Even members of G N' R didn't want the track on the album knowing it would cause an issue, but Rose demanded it be included. Sure enough, it caused a bit of an uproar. At first Rose defended his lyrics, but not necessarily in a truthful way. It would take a few years before Rose would finally just state that he gone through a couple things in his life where he felt very vulnerable and it was his way to express his anger about the situations. While that seems plausible and most likely the truth, one could argue that Rose didn't have to take it to the extremes that he did, which got the band labeled by many as racist and homophobic. The song remained a bad apple in their catalog and the band more or less just set it to the side. They even chose to not include it on the 2018 box set for Appetite for Destruction, which included the G N' R Lies tracks.

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