Saturday, July 23, 2022

"Rooms on Fire" by Stevie Nicks

Song#:  3884
Date:  05/06/1989
Debut:  85
Peak:  16
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After working and touring with Fleetwood Mac for the 1987 album Tango in the Night and 1988's Greatest Hits, Nicks returned to solo work and began recording her fourth solo album with producer Rupert Hine. Titled The Other Side of the Mirror, it was a work that had themes loosely based on the Lewis Carroll classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. This first single was released and it shot straight to #1 at Rock becoming her second solo chart topper. Over on the Pop chart, the tune made a steady climb, but ended up stopping inside the Top 20. It marked the first time a lead single from one of Nick's solo albums failed to make the Pop Top 10. A second single, "Long Way to Go," which featured Bruce Hornsby, was able to get to #11 Rock, but it failed to make the Pop chart. Despite not spawning a more robust hit, the album still made it to #10 and became a platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  Nicks' solo career wasn't quite as well received in the UK despite Fleetwood Mac doing well there (three main members were from England). Up to this point she was unable to get a Top 40 hit. This song would end up being her biggest solo hit in the UK reaching #16 and the album her best effort at #3. I'm not sure what made this song catch on in the UK over her other classics. Perhaps having Brit producer Hine drew attention. When this single came out, I wasn't blown away by it. While the chorus was catchy, the tune as a whole sounded more like a third single candidate instead of a lead single. The album was a bit underwhelming as well. There were only a couple of tracks that stuck with me including the rocker "Whole Lotta Love," which earned Nicks a Grammy nod for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female. Her next album Street Angel was a total snoozer and I nearly gave up on Nicks. But then she came roaring back with Trouble In Shangri-La and has done some good work since.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Nicks would release the compilation Timespace: The Best of Stevie Nicks in 1991. The album included three new tracks including "Sometimes It's a Bitch," a song written by Jon Bon Jovi with Billy Falcon. It would be issued out as a single and get to #7 Rock and #56 Pop. The LP would be a #30 platinum seller. She would hit a bump in the road with 1994's Street Angel. Although it went gold, the LP wasn't received well and became her lowest peaking at #45. It featured what is to-date her last song to make the Pop chart, the #57 "Maybe Love Will Change Your Mind" (#17 AC/#36 Rock). Nicks would rebound with 2001's Trouble in Shangri-La. It would get to #5 and go gold. The LP featured a pair of AC Top 20 hits along with her first and only #1 on the Dance chart "Planets of the Universe." To-date, Nicks has released two more studio albums and both have made the Top 10. In 1998, Nicks would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac. In 2019, she would be inducted again as a solo artist. That honor made her the first female to be inducted into the Hall twice.


Friday, July 22, 2022

"Anything Can Happen" by Was (Not Was)

Song#:  3883
Date:  05/06/1989
Debut:  89
Peak:  75
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop, Soul

Pop Bits:  This oddball dance-funk group headed up by Don and David Was got their first and only Pop Top 10 hit with the quirky "Walk the Dinosaur" (#6). It was the second single from their third album What Up, Dog? For a follow-up, this next track was selected. It did saw some action at Dance (#19) and AC (#36), but it didn't get far at Pop where it peaked right at the bottom quarter point on the chart. It didn't do much to help further sales of the album, which had already peaked at #43. This single would be the group's last one to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  After the wacky "Walk the Dinosaur," I'm not sure folks were expecting or wanting this classier sophisti-pop tune. I can't say it was a bad choice for a single as I think an artist like Breathe or Johnny Hates Jazz could have ridden this into the Top 40. But as a follow-up to "Dinoaur" it wasn't quite right for Was (Not Was).

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The group would return in 1990 with their fourth album Are You Okay? As they did with their previous LPs, the Was "brothers" recruited some interesting artists for cameos. The tracks included appearances by Leonard Cohen, The Roches, Jeff Lorber, Iggy Pop, Doug Fieger (of The Knack), and MTV VJ Downtown Julie Brown. The LP's first single was a remake of the 1972 #1 Pop/#5 R&B classic by the Temptations "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." The song would make it to #10 at Dance, but would only reach #60 R&B while not even cracking the Pop chart. A second single would be a minor entry on the Dance chart. With those results, the album halted at #99. In 1992, the group would issue out the compilation LP Hello Dad...I'm in Jail. It featured the single "Shake Your Head," which reached #4 in the UK. The track featured the odd vocal pairing of Ozzy Osbourne and actress Kim Basinger. Following the compilation, Don and David Was quietly put the band on hiatus. David Was would go on to produce albums by artists like Rickie Lee Jones and branch out into film and TV music. Don Was would have a prolific career as a producer and would go on to win five Grammys including one for Producer of the Year. The pair would reunite for the 2008 album Boo!


Thursday, July 21, 2022

"Pop Singer" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Song#:  3882
Date:  04/29/1989
Debut:  54
Peak:  15
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Folk-Rock, Americana

Pop Bits:  Mellencamp's 1987 album The Lonesome Jubilee was a #6 triple-platinum seller that added two more Pop Top 10 hits to his credits including the #8 "Cherry Bomb" (#1 Rock/#12 AC). Hoping to secure another Top 10, Mellencamp released this first single from his tenth album Big Daddy. The song would do well at Rock getting to #2, but after a fairly high debut on the Pop chart, the song stopped short of the Top 10. It was the first time since 1980 that a lead single from a Mellencamp album failed to crack the Top 10. Despite that, the album still sold well reaching #7 and going platinum.

ReduxReviewBig Daddy wrapped up a few things for Mellencamp. It was his last studio LP of the 80s, it was the last to have "Cougar" appear in his name credit, and it was the third and last in a sort of trilogy of albums where Mellencamp had a more Americana approach in his songs and using instruments like fiddle and accordion. He'd return to a harder edged rock 'n' roll sound with 1991's Whenever We Wanted To. I really liked this song when it came out. I thought it was hooky and memorable and I liked how Mellencamp was addressing what he had been going through in the music business, especially in the early days when his career was basically being directed by others. However, I wasn't sure it was going to be a hit single. It wasn't as relatable as some of his other hits and it wasn't quite sitting well next to the new jack swing and glam rock of the day. But I think Mellencamp had enough fans show up that helped to get this song up the chart. Big Daddy was another winner for me from Mellencamp. It may not have been as immediately likeable as his previous LPs (in general it was a rather dark collection), but on repeated listens the songs shine. While I wouldn't perhaps consider it underrated in his catalog, I do think it didn't quite get its due back in the day or even now.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The cover of Big Daddy featureed a photo of Mellencamp hugging/holding a young girl. That girl was Mellencamp's daughter Teddi Jo. Her mother was Mellencamp's second wife Victoria Granucci. The couple had one other daughter named Justice. Apparently, Justice was originally to be on the cover. She was three at the time and on the day of the shoot she was fussy and crying and not wanting to participate. Teddi, who was seven, then stepped in and got the job done. It was during the writing and recording of the album that Mellencamp was going through the split/divorce with Granucci. In 2011, Teddi would marry securities CEO Edwin Arroyave. They would have three kids. In 2017, Teddi would join the cast of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. She would be on the show for three seasons. She also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2022. She would be the first person evicted from the house.


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

"Baby Don't Forget My Number" by Milli Vanilli

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3881
Date:  04/29/1989
Debut:  62
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Dance-Pop, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  This duo of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus found themselves getting an unexpected #2 platinum-selling hit with "Girl You Know It's True." Their associated album by the same name would be released and quickly go gold. For a follow-up single, this next track was selected. This time around, the duo were able to make it all the way to #1 on the Pop chart. The song would also get to #9 R&B and #10 Dance. As the single peaked, the album would find a home in the Top 10 and would reach the platinum sales level. It was quite the one-two punch, but there was a lot more to come.

ReduxReview:  I liked "Girl You Know It's True" and even bought the single, but when this came out I wasn't having it. I didn't connect with the song at all. Frankly, I thought it was a stupid track and I immediately lost interest in Milli Vanilli. These days, the tune kind of has a bit of a goofy charm. The chorus is quite hooky and Frank Farian's production was nicely detailed. It was kind of a kitchen sink track with various catchy melodies, a bit of rap, and some ba-ba-ba-ba-ba's tossed in for good measure. It's nothing I'd get a craving to hear, but I can listen to it these days without wanting to roll my eyes and hit the skip button.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Milli Vanilli mastermind Frank Farian and Brad Nail. Nail is actually Texas-born singer/keyboardist Brad Howell. Howell learned the keyboard early on and spent time in the 60s playing around the Washington D.C. area. It was there that he was invited to play in Wilson Pickett's band on a European tour. This was around 1966 and it seems Howell liked Europe enough to stick around. In the mid 70s, Howell ended up in a Germany-based disco outfit called Chilly. They were the assembled product of producer Bernt Möhrle. He'd get them signed to Polydor and in 1978 a debut album titled For Your Love was released. It featured the title track cover of the 1965 #6 hit by The Yardbirds. The single would get to #38 on the US Dance chart in 1979. Chilly would record four albums that performed fairly well around Europe and spawned a few club hits. The group would disband sometime around '84. At some point in time, Howell crossed paths with songwriter/producer Frank Farian. The pair would write a couple songs and Howell would provide vocals on the tracks along with another American singer John Davis. While the songs they recorded hit the mark for Farian, he didn't consider the pair marketable. Howell was in his mid-40s at the time and Davis in his 30s. So Farian decided to keep the tracks and vocals as recorded and got two other young model-esque guys to be the faces of the duo. That's when Morvan and Pilatus came on board and the strange saga of Milli Vanilli began.


Monday, July 18, 2022

"I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty

Song#:  3880
Date:  04/29/1989
Debut:  75
Peak:  12
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Petty was last on the Pop chart not with his band The Heartbreakers, but with the side project The Traveling Wilburys. Their debut album would reach #3 and go triple-platinum with its first single "Handle with Care" getting to #45 Pop/#2 Rock. But just prior to his work with The Traveling Wilburys, Petty had begun work on his first solo billed effort with producer and fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynn. Petty didn't intentionally set out to do a solo album, but while on a break after a worldwide tour, Petty and Lynne started to hang out and it wasn't long before they were writing and recording some songs. Along the way some of The Hearbreakers dropped by to contribute along with Roy Orbison and George Harrison. After a chunk of tracks were recorded, the idea of the Wilburys surfaced and Petty shifted focus to that project. When everything with the Wilburys wrapped up, Petty returned to the tracks he had been working on, did a few more, and decided to toss them into an album. Since The Heartbreakers that contributed were more or less guests rather that all fully on the project, Petty thought it best to just credit the LP to himself and Full Moon Fever was born. This first single was issued out and it would easily reach #1 at Rock. It also got to #29 Modern Rock while nearly cracking the Pop Top 10. It was Petty's best result since the 1979 #10 "Don't Do Me Like That." The album would reach #3 and by the end of July it would go platinum.

ReduxReview:  I've always thought this chuggin' tune served as a sort of blueprint for some of the Traveling Wilburys tracks. It had a retro rock sound and could have easily been on the Wilburys' album. The pairing of Petty and Lynne was a good one and I think their individual writing skills melded well (seven of the LP's tracks were composed by the pair including this one). Lynne's ELO/Beatle-ish production was also a highlight and it framed Petty in a new way. This song was just so easy to like. There were hooks all over the place and it sounded great on the radio. Having George Harrision drop in on acoustic guitar and backing vocals was also a nice add. It should have gone Top 10, but peaking just outside wasn't a bad result at all.

ReduxRating:  8/10

TriviaFull Moon Fever was almost not released. The story seems to go that when Petty finished the initial set of tracks for the album, he took them to his label MCA. Petty was pleased with the results and looked forward to sharing them. It seemed like a slam dunk. However, the folks in charge at the label didn't like what they heard. None of the tracks seemed to be hit single candidates and so they chose to reject the album. Petty was stunned to say the least. Around that time, things began to pick up with the Wilburys and Petty chose to just move forward and dive into that project. By the time the Wilburys album came out, there had been a shift of power at MCA. Petty recorded a couple more tracks for his solo project including a cover of The Byrds' 1965 song "Feel a Whole Lot Better," which Petty thought might be the "hit" the label was wanting. Petty took the album back to MCA. The new folks in charge loved the album and wanted to get it out. Full Moon Fever finally saw the light of day and it would end up selling over five million copies, receive an Album of the Year Grammy nod, and spawn three Top 30 hits including a Top 10. Although MCA did eventually release the album, Petty's feelings for the label had already soured. After the LP was initially rejected, Petty happened to be at a dinner party and played "Free Fallin'" from the album. A couple of execs from Warner Bros. happened to be there (the Wilburys were on that label) and conversations began to have Petty switch over to the label. A secret deal was struck and after Petty finished his obligations to MCA, the switch was made. Petty's first effort for Warner Bros. was his second solo album, 1994's Wildflowers, which would become a #5 triple-platinum seller.