Saturday, July 16, 2022

"For the Love of Money" by BulletBoys

Song#:  3879
Date:  04/29/1989
Debut:  87
Peak:   78
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  BulletBoys formed when three members of another L.A. metal band, King Kobra, decided to strike out on their own. After finding a drummer, the band began hitting the club circuit and quickly found themselves signed to Warner Bros. They began work on a self-titled debut album with Van Halen producer Ted Templeman. The LP was finished by the fall of '88 and a first single, "Smooth Up" (listed as "Smooth Up in Ya" on the album), was issued out. The tune was initially unable to chart, however the video did well on MTV and copies of the album began to sell. It would reach its peak of #34 on the chart in February of '89 without any support via a charting single. By that point this second single had been released and it began to climb the Rock chart. It would peak at #30 and not long after that the album would be certified gold. Those results along with more MTV exposure would help the single get on the Pop chart. The tune would hang around for just a few weeks and peak in the bottom quarter. Still, BulletBoys had pulled off the feat of achieving a gold album without the aid of a significant hit song.

ReduxReview:  Several glam metal bands of the era included soul/blues elements in their songs, but a minor few actually recorded covers of older R&B hits like this one. The money was in songwriting and publishing, so while many bands would perform covers in their shows, they typically recorded tunes they composed. I'm not sure why BulletBoys chose to record this classic. Maybe it was one they did in their shows or perhaps it was proposed by their label or producer Templeman. Whatever the case, the results are...odd. I can't say that it was a bad attempt, but I'm not sure that this song was really needing a glam metal makeover. At times the tune is barely recognizable. I read a review that called it "spectacularly awkward" and I do think that sums it up. Perhaps a case of so-bad-it's-good? While I like the beefy, Van Halen-ish Templeman production, the remake doesn't do much for me. This wouldn't be the band's only strange cover. On their next album they would do a version of the Tom Waits oddity "Hang on St. Christopher" (a song I love). It would be a far better cover attempt than this weird round peg/square hole track.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and AnthonyJackson, and originally recorded by The O'Jays. Their 1973 version would reach #3 R&B and #9 Pop. It would be a gold-selling single that earned The O'Jays a Grammy nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. The O'Jays had been together since 1958 and recorded singles and albums throughout the 60s. However, besides a lone R&B Top 10 single, the group was not having a lot of success on the charts. That changed when they signed on with Philadelphia International in 1972. Their first album for the label, Back Stabbers, would go gold as would the #1 R&B/#3 Pop title track single. The song and album began a streak of hits throughout the 70s for the group. In all, they would get six Pop Top 10s including one #1 ('73's "Love Train") and twenty-five R&B Top 10s including nine #1s.


Friday, July 15, 2022

"Who Do You Give Your Love To?" by Michael Morales

Song#:  3878
Date:  04/29/1989
Debut:  88
Peak:  15
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This singer/songwriter from San Antonio, Texas, began performing with bands at a young age. In 1980 while still a teen, Morales formed his own band called The Max and began to hit the clubs in the area. Over the next eight years, Morales would hone his craft and along with the band would write and record a few tracks that made their way to a couple radio station compilations of local artists. Eventually, the work would pay off when PolyGram Records came along and offered Morales a solo deal to be on their Mercury offshoot label Wing. For his self-titled debut album, Morales would pretty much do everything on the majority of tracks (he would work with producer Roy Thomas Baker on three of the tracks). He wrote the tunes, played the instruments, and produced the recordings. This first single was one that Morales pretty much did himself. It got some attention and began to climb the Pop chart. Eventually it would crack the Top 20. The hit would help the album make the chart at #113.

ReduxReview:  I liked this song back in the day and ended up buying the single. It was a well written, catchy tune with a nice vocal turn from Morales. The break/key change near the end provided an extra boost of urgency. The production was fine and I think Morales had a vision and knew what he wanted to do, but on his first major LP he might have been better served by working with a good rock-oriented producer. The Roy Thomas Baker-produced tracks are a bit better, but the whole album could have had a meatier, cleaner sound and the arrangements given a little boost. Still, this was a good single and it holds up pretty well.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In an article published in 2003 in Texas Monthly, there was a mention that Morales appeared on the 80s talent contest TV show Star Search. It seems to be the only reference to Morales being on the show. One could assume that since he was with his band The Max at the time, it might have been with them. The band name could have changed as well. For those that may remember, Destiny's Child appeared on Star Search, but they were known then as Girls Tyme. Star Search was only accessible via TV and most of the videos from the show on YouTube come from viewers who taped the show. While it is odd that the original shows have never been publicly documented or available, chances are good they may never be. Getting the rights to the songs and artists would be so expensive and time consuming. Plus there was nothing at the time like what we have now with Wikipedia where the shows could be documented nearly in real time, such as with American Idol, The Voice, and other competitions shows. I still find it amazing that there wasn't a super fan out there that taped all the shows and/or wrote down the competitors and the results. If there is a list out there, I can't find it.


Thursday, July 14, 2022

"Down Boys" by Warrant

Song#:  3877
Date:  04/29/1989
Debut:  90
Peak:  27
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  This Hollywood-based band first began to form in '84. It would take a couple of years and some personnel changes before things clicked with a steady lineup that included singer/songwriter Jani Lane. The band then made a name for themselves on the L.A. club circuit and it wasn't long before labels began to show interest. It seems their first stop was Prince's label Paisley Park. The band recorded demos, but none excited the label. Then A&M Records tested them out. They were able to at least record one track for the label, "Game of War," but then the label also decided to pass on the band. The track was still used for the '89 comedy flick Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but it was not included on the soundtrack album. Columbia Records then quickly secured the band and in '88 work began on their debut album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. It would be ready to go by the time '89 rolled around and this first single would be issued out. It caught on at Rock where it would reach #13. The song was then able to cross over to the Pop chart where it slowly made progress and eventually it would peak inside the Top 30. The album would initially peak inside the Top 30 as well and by July it had gone gold. It was a very good result, but that was only the beginning for the band and the album.

ReduxReview:  I had forgotten about this song. Although the band was tagged as an L.A. glam metal band, this song leaned more towards catchy arena rock with its hooks and swirling background keyboards. It had more in common with Cheap Trick and Journey than Poison or Mötley Crüe. In a way that was good because it gave them a radio-ready rock song that could help get them established. The single didn't fully blow up the Pop chart, but it did pretty well and helped make their album go gold. It also set them up for further success with their next single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Lead singer/songwriter Jani Lane (given name John Kennedy Oswald) started his career in music as a drummer and even before he was in his teens he was performing with a band in clubs. After graduating high school, Lane would continue to play drums in several bands. Along the way, Lane's vocals were noticed and he was encouraged to move into a lead vocal position. After a move to Florida in '83, Lane eventually formed the band Plain Jane and took on the lead vocal role. After recording a demo, the band decided to give L.A. a shot and moved out west. They would play the club circuit opening for other bands including one called Warrant. Oddly, on the same day both Plain Jane and Warrant would shed members. Warrant would be without a lead singer and drummer, so Lane and Plain Jane's drummer Steven Sweet would be invited to join up with Warrant. They did and by March of '87 Warrant would have secured their classic lineup.


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

"Mayor of Simpleton" by XTC

Song#:  3876
Date:  04/29/1989
Debut:  92
Peak:  72
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This English band had been releasing albums since the late 70s. While they were successful at home, especially with their 1982 #5 album English Settlement and its #10 single "Senses Working Overtime," XTC more or less remained a cult artist in the US. By this point in time their best effort had been the 1980 #41 Black Sea, which featured the #28 Rock entry "Generals and Majors." Their 1987 Todd Rundgren-produced album Skylarking (#70) brought attention to the band thanks to the somewhat controversial single "Dear God" (#37 Rock). It set them up for further success and the band responded with their ninth studio album Oranges & Lemons. The double-LP effort would get kicked off with this first single. It would be their first entry on the Modern Rock chart where it made its way to the #1 spot. The song would then get to #15 at Rock becoming their biggest hit there. That attention helped the song reach the Pop chart where it would spend a few weeks near the bottom. It would be the band's first and only song to make the Pop chart. The album would get to #44. A second single, "King for a Day," would reach #11 Modern Rock and #38 Rock.

ReduxReview:  By this point I had already become a fan of XTC thanks mainly to Skylarking, which quickly became one of my favorite albums. So I was looking forward to Oranges & Lemons. Although it wasn't quite as good, I still wasn't disappointed in the album. It has some terrific tracks and this single was certainly a highlight. The jangle pop tune ranked among their most catchiest and radio friendly. I was really hoping it would take off in a much larger way at Pop. It really should have at least scratched the Top 40. However, it at least topped the Modern Rock chart. I liked their next LP Nonesuch, but then 1999's Apple Venus, Volume 1 kind of blew me away. It was loaded with baroque pop gems that were impeccably written, arranged, and recorded. I played the crap out of that CD. I still play it and Skylarking quite a bit. They are bright summertime favorites. XTC has a great catalog of songs and albums that should be explored by any art pop fan.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  While the band's next album, 1992's Nonesuch, wouldn't do much to expand their US audience (#97), it did featured their second #1 at Modern Rock (#46 Rock) "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead." The LP also earned the band their first and only Grammy nomination. It would be for Best Alternative Music Album. Around the time of Nonesuch, the band had been having issues with their label Virgin Records. They had been with Virgin since their 1978 debut album White Music, but the sudden withdrawal of the third single from Nonesuch left the band upset. Then it seems that the band's concept for their next album was rejected by the label after they heard demos. The band wanted out of their contract or to renegotiate the terms, but Virgin declined on both. So the band did what a few other artists had tried - they went on strike. They refused to record anything for the label. It would take a few years, but they would finally get out of their contract with Virgin. They would later sign on with UK indie label Cooking Vinyl and in 1999 released the first of a two-part project Apple Venus, Volume 1. It was an orchestral pop effort that was a critical success. In 2000, the second part, Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Volume2) was released. It was a more rock oriented effort that received a more mixed reaction. It would be the band's final album. Although there was no official breakup announcement, the band began to go their own ways after Wasp Star and have never regrouped.


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

"Veronica" by Elvis Costello

Song#:  3875
Date:  04/22/1989
Debut:  75
Peak:  19
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  Costello's first few albums sold well in the US with even one, 1979's Armed Forces, reaching the Top 10 (#10). He seemed poised for a bigger breakthrough, which did happen in his UK homeland, but in the US Costello sort of remained a revered cult artist that didn't quite fit the mainstream. Up to this point in time, only two of his singles reached the US Pop chart with 1983's "Everyday I Write the Book" doing the best getting to #36. By contrast, he had fourteen Top 40 entries in the UK including three Top 10s. The vast majority of his catalog had been recorded with his band The Attractions, but tensions within the group led to Costello going it solo for his '89 album Spike. It was his first solo billed LP since his '77 debut My Aim Is True. It was also his first effort for Warner Bros., Costello's new home after his contract with his long time label Columbia expired. He would write all the songs for the new album with three of them being co-writes; one with then-wife Pogue's bassist Cait O'Riordan and two with Paul McCartney. This first single from the album was one of the McCartney collaborations. McCartney also played bass on the track. With the aid of a moving video that would end up winning an MTV Music Video Award for Best Male Video, the song began to take off. It would reach #1 at Modern Rock while getting to #10 Rock. That action helped the song move up the Pop chart where it peaked just inside the Top 20. It would be Costello's biggest hit in the US. Unfortunately, it would also end up being his last Pop chart single. The hit helped the album get to #32 and it would go gold.

ReduxReview:  I've always run hot 'n' cold with Costello. A good chunk of the time I just don't connect with his songs. Then he does a song like "Veronica" and I'm all about it. I liked the lyrics of the tune, the urgent chorus, and the baroque-pop arrangement. I immediately bought the single. Still, it didn't move me to get the LP. Costello fell off my radar for several years until he collaborated with one of my favorite composers Burt Bacharach. The pair recorded the '98 album Painted from Memory, which quickly became a huge favorite of mine. I also liked his 2001 collaboration with Anne Sofie Von Otter For the Stars. I tried to keep on with Costello after those two works, but after a couple of albums where I only liked a few minor songs, I jumped off the Costello bandwagon again. I have yet to jump back on, however I have gone back to some of his earlier works and have developed an appreciation for them. Oddly, like songs by Bob Dylan, I have a tendency to like other artists covering Costello tunes such as Everything But the Girl's beautiful take on "Alison." However, "Veronica" still remains one of my favorites from Costello himself.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The Costello/McCartney pairing came about when McCartney was trying to revamp his career after the tepid response to his '86 album Press to Play (#30). McCartney's manager suggested he contact Costello and perhaps write with him. McCartney reached out and in '87 Costello showed up at McCartney's studio. The pair composed twelve songs. Four of the tunes would end up on McCartney's '89 album Flowers in the Dirt while two would be on Costello's Spike including "Veronica." Other songs from the collaboration would appear on the follow-up albums from both artists. The media sort of hailed the pairing as a new Lennon/McCartney team, but neither artist saw it that way. It was a one-time collaboration that bore some fruit and provided each artist with a Pop Top 30 hit; "Veronica" for Costello and "My Brave Face" (#25) for McCartney, which ended up being his final solo Top 40 entry.


Monday, July 11, 2022

"Let Me In" by Eddie Money

Song#:  3874
Date:  04/22/1989
Debut:  81
Peak:  60
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Although "The Love in Your Eyes," the second single from Money's album Nothing to Lose, would be a #1 hit at Rock, it fared less well at Pop where it could only reach #24. Still, that was a good enough reason for the label to issue out this third single. Unfortunately it didn't perform nearly as well getting to #30 Pop and stopping short of the top half of the Pop chart. Another track from the album, "Forget About Love," would get enough airplay to reach #36 on the Rock chart. By this point the album had already peaked at #49. It missed reaching the gold level sales mark, which was a disappointment coming off of his 1986 platinum effort Can't Hold Back.

ReduxReview:  This is kind of a dark and sultry song for Money. It was a good track that was nicely produced and featured a good vocal turn from Money. However, it just didn't have that big hook factor needed to make it go further on the Pop chart. The song fit Branigan quite well (see below), but again it just wasn't single-worthy. Still, it was a solid track that was a good addition to Money's album.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Dennis Matkosky and Paul Gordon. Matkosky had been a co-writer on several pop and country hits including the #1 soundtrack song "Maniac" by Michael Sembello. Gordon also had a few hits under his belt including the #1 "The Next Time I Fall" by Peter Cetera and Amy Grant. The pair also co-wrote (with Lou Pardini) "We've Saved the Best for Last" (#47 Pop/#4 AC/#18 R&B) for Kenny G, which featured vocals by Smokey Robinson. Although "Let Me In" wouldn't be a big hit for Eddie Money, the song found its way over to Laura Branigan. She would record a version for her 1990 self-titled album. It would be co-produced by Matkosky. The track would not be released as a single. The album would end up being Branigan's last to make the Pop chart at #133. It's lead single "Moonlight on Water" would only get to #53 and also be her last to make the Pop chart.