Thursday, March 31, 2011

Face to Face -- "10-9-8"

10-9-8 - Face to Face™ (Bonus Tracks)

(Debuted June 2, 1984, Peaked #38, 15 Weeks on the Chart)

If there were a song that was destined to be on Casey Kasem's American Top 40 countdown show, this was it. It did reach the lower rungs of the Top 40, but didn't stick around long enough to get to any of the numbers in the title.

The Boston-based band was expecting to get their big break during the summer of '84. The same week "10-9-8" debuted on the Hot 100, a movie called Streets of Fire began running in the theaters. In the movie, a character name Ellen Aim is the lead singer of a group called The Attackers. She is kidnapped by a motorcycle gang (led by Willem Dafoe). Diane Lane played Ellen Aim, but she lip-synced the vocals of the songs she was performing before she was snatched. The actual words were sung by Face to Face's vocalist Laurie Sargent, and the other members of the band appeared on screen as The Attackers.

The film was a flop, not even earning back its budget. To make matters worse, Face to Face didn't get a lot of mileage out of their appearance in the film, since the studio focused on its own soundtrack and Dan Hartman's single "I Can Dream About You," which ended up being a #6 hit.

The YouTube video (also the promotional video shown on MTV) is an interesting example of the use of color in 80s style. While the idea of using a single color in a black-and-white frame is still used, the red and green colors used in the video are definitely from that era. Just as it's hard to explain the allure of bell bottoms and platform shoes to those who missed the 1970s, I often have trouble trying to explain to my 12 year-old daughter about what we were thinking in the 1980s when we were trying to be trendy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Real Life - "Catch Me I'm Falling"

(Debuted March 24, 1984, Peaked #40, 11 Weeks on the Chart)

After the moderate success of "Send Me an Angel," which reached #26, Real Life released its followup, reaching into the Top 40 once again. That would be the last time American audiences would hear the Australian group until they put out a new version of their first hit five years later.

It's a shame that Real Life has been considered a One-Hit wonder because of two different versions of its biggest hit. "Catch Me I'm Falling" was not only a minor Top 40 hit, it was also just as good. The band probably deserved to get a better break than it did.

The YouTube video below seems to have been taken from a college (or public access) show, but features the same promotional video played on other outlets. The opening features several people with glow-in-the-dark paint as a vocorder plays the opening lines. I distinctly remembering that opening from when I was a child. I saw it only once at the time, but never forgot the chorus of the song until I picked up the group's Send Me An Angel '89 cassette several years later.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Scandal Featuring Patty Smyth -- "Hands Tied"

Hands Tied - Warrior

(Debuted October 20, 1984, Peaked #41, 12 Weeks on the Chart)

I watched Patty Smyth sing this on Solid Gold and wondered why the song never showed up on Casey Kasem's American Top 40 program. Now that I see it only reached #41, that mystery is explained.

Scandal enjoyed the biggest hit of their career during the summer of '84 when "The Warrior" went into the Top 10.  Despite its success, it would be the only Top 40 hit the group would ever have. What's interesting is that after "Warrior," most music fans don't remember their second-highest charting song "Hands Tied" (or 1985's "Beat of a Heart," which also stopped at #41), they think of the group's first hit "Goodbye to You." That 1982 hit only reached #65 and was the lowest-charting of the five Hot 100 singles the band would have.

The story of Scandal after that '82 hit describes what was happening by the time "Hands Tied" was being sent to radio stations. While "Goodbye to You" wasn't a wide-reaching hit, it definitely gained some exposure to the band. However, there were internal dissensions and the members began filing out. By the time the album The Warrior appeared, only two of the members from that 1982 hit were still left. To make matters worse, the album was credited to Scandal, but the singles were showing "Scandal featuring Patty Smyth" and the videos were focusing more on her than they were on the other members of the band.

In the YouTube video below (also the video that ran on MTV at the time), Patty Smyth definitely gets more camera time than her bandmates do. The group's internal strife would continue, and they broke up without following up The Warrior.

Monday, March 28, 2011

INXS -- "Original Sin"

Original Sin (Single Version) - The Best of INXS

(Debuted April 28, 1984, Peaked #58, 7 Weeks on the Chart)

I remember watching the video below on MTV in 1984. I also remember that I was pronouncing the group's name wrong (I called it "Inks" until hearing Martha Quinn say it it during one of her breaks). It was the first I'd heard of the group, as "The One Thing" and the Shabooh Shoobah LP came out before I paid a lot of attention to MTV and the group never really appeared on the local radio until 1986's "What You Need."

Despite becoming the band's first #1 single in their native Australia, "Original Sin" peaked out at #58 on the American pop chart. That wasn't for lack of trying; Daryl Hall helps out on the chorus, Nile Rogers handled the production duties and the video (shown below) was given adequate airplay on MTV. Perhaps the "black boy, white girl" chant in the song was deemed a little too dangerous for mainstream America in 1984.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lee Greenwood -- "I.O.U."

I.O.U. - Lee Greenwood: Greatest Hits

(Debuted May 28, 1983, Peaked #53, 11 Weeks on the Chart)

Lee Greenwood is better known for "God Bless the U.S.A.," a song that is loved by many for the emotions it brings up and detested by many for the same exact reason. Since that song was never listed on the Billboard Hot 100, I don't get the chance to share what feelings it stirs inside me here. Due to the political implications it might lead to (in either direction), perhaps that's for the best.

Greenwood expresses his emotion in this song, though, and it's not for patriotism. This is a love song, and he's expressing all the reasons he feels he's better off with his better half. Greenwood didn't write this one, though: it was written by ex-Gary Puckett & the Union Gap bassist Kerry Chater and 70s pop singer Austin Roberts ("Something's Wrong With Me"). It may surprise fans just how many rock and pop artists from the 60s and 70s went on to write hit records in Nashville in the 1980s.

"I.O.U." was Greenwood's biggest crossover hit. In addition to its pop showing, it went into the Top 10 on both the country and adult contemporary charts.

(P.S.: In the 1970s, there was a song by Jimmy Dean called "I.O.U." that was a list of the things his mother gave him. This is not a remake of that song.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jim Capaldi -- "That's Love"

(Not available on iTunes)

(Debuted April 30, 1983, Peaked #28, 13 Weeks on the Chart)

For those who remember Jim Capaldi as the drummer of the 1960s/70s group Traffic, the sound of "That's Love" may come as a surprise. That said, it's worth pointing out that his former bandmate Steve Winwood had been exploring and developing his synthesizer style at the same time, and he's adding his own mark on the backing track.

In fact, the song features a rather simple arrangement. Besides the synthesizer, there's a drum track and electric guitar. While a synthesizer and drum track have contributed to some rather awful music over the years, in the hands of Capaldi and Winwood it's a low-key affair, done in the early years before enough would-be musicians sequenced the hell out of everything. The backing vocal is supplied by Winwood's wife Nicole.

Jim Capaldi died of stomach caner in 2005.

The YouTube video below is interesting to watch. A couple, including Eric Bogosian (before Talk Radio) go through a wide spectrum of emotions. I'm guessing that's Steve Winwood in the video along with Capaldi in a waterfront scene, and Capaldi shows up again at the very end.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ronnie Milsap - "Stranger in My House"

Stranger In My House - The Essential Ronnie Milsap

(Debuted March 26, 1983, Peaked #23, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

Go ahead...joke about the line "Somebody here that I can't see."  And while you're at it, mention the fact that Ronnie Milsap's work in the 1980s often consisted of a sameness that afflicted many country artists of the era (except possibly for George Strait). However, there's no denying that the man had tremendous talent when he had good material and this is one example of what he could do with a great song.

Songs about paranoia have long been a part of the lexicon of music, whether real or perceived. "Stranger in My House" was written by Mike Reid, a former professional football player (he played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1970-'74). The lyrics tell of a man who's convinced his wife/lover is seeing another but can't figure out whether it's merely his imagination at work. As he's descending into madness, the keyboard that dominates the instrumental track is sometimes choppy in its delivery, which makes the paranoia part of the track.

"Stranger in My House" would be Milsap's last Top 40 pop hit and broke a string of 10 straight #1 songs on the Billboard country chart. Interestingly, a genre that prides itself on being more realistic than others couldn't take this song to #1. Perhaps it was just a little too realistic.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Human League - "Mirror Man"

Mirror Man - Fascination! - EP

(Debuted October 1, 1983, Peaked #30, 12 Weeks on the Chart)

When The Human League had its international smash hit "Don't You Want Me" in 1982, they became the first really successful synth-pop group. Where many acts would follow up that degree of success with a new LP and try to sustain it, the band followed their million-selling single with an EP called Fascination! that only barely quenched the public's thirst.

"Mirror Man" was the first song written for the EP. While American listeners may pick up the Motown rhythms that permeate the song, listeners from the band's native England point out that the Northern Soul movement in that country was likely a larger influence for the sound. Years later, it was revealed that the "Mirror Man" in the lyrics was Adam Ant, who writer/singer Philip Oakey had worried was listening way too much to his publicity and losing touch with reality. It was a #2 hit in the U.K., but a more modest #30 on this side of the Atlantic.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ray Parker, Jr. -- "Bad Boy"

Bad Boy - Ray Parker, Jr.: Greatest Hits

(Debuted December 4, 1982, Peaked #35, 11 Weeks on the Chart)

The YouTube video below features "Bad Boy" played on vinyl through a cheap speaker. Some viewers may wish the quality were better, but I say if that's the way we heard it then, it should be a nice trip down memory lane. At least I didn't pick the other version, which had some pops in the audio as well.

80s fans probably best remember Ray Parker, Jr. for the juggernaut that was "Ghostbusters," but he was a veteran of the music business before that. Beginning as a teenage session artist in Detroit, he was playing guitar with Stevie Wonder and Barry White before he was 20. By the end of the 1970s, he was writing for Rufus and Chaka Khan, producing Cheryl Lynn and Deniece Williams and even hitting the chart as the leader of Raydio ("Jack & Jill," "You Can't Change That"). As the 1980s dawned,  Parker was stepping out to become a more noticeable entity with Raydio as his backup band. "A Woman Needs Love" was a decent hit, but "The Other Woman" -- a paean to infidelity -- was even bigger, going Top 10 in 1982.

"Bad Boy" was something of a followup to "The Other Woman," both as a single and as a concept. In the lyrics, the "strange" has gotten stale and the narrator is ready to come back home if he can. And he's not beneath crawling if it gets him there. He even mentions the previous hit in the lyrics ("now the other woman's left me"), promises to take out the trash and do the dishes and even says she can beat him if it'll help get him home. If that's what a man is forced to do to get back in the good graces of a jilted ex-lover, I suppose payback truly is a bitch.

"Bad Boy" was a bonus track from Parker's Greatest Hits LP, which came out late in '82 to capitalize on the success of "The Other Woman." That's probably why it directly addressed that song.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Cars -- "Since You're Gone"

Since You're Gone - Shake It Up

(Debuted March 27, 1982, Peaked #41, 9 Weeks on the Chart)

The video for this song (also the YouTube video below) received a lot of airplay on MTV, which will surprise many when told "Since You're Gone" didn't reach the Top 40. It came really close, but no cigar.

Beginning as a guitar-based rock band in the late 1970s, The Cars embraced the New Wave sound as the 1980s got underway and started using Greg Hawkes' synthesizer in their songs more often. Hawkes, to his credit, was also developing into a fine practitioner of the instrument, pushing the boundaries that technology afforded him.  "Since You're Gone" shows a glimpse of how the band's sound was evolving: at the beginning, the guitars provide most of the instrumentation, but the keyboard provides the main solo and overwhelms the guitars by the end of the song. All the while, an electronic rhythm that begins as a tap dance routine propels the song forward.

All the while, Ric Ocasek's lyrics show how deep he's sunk into despair over being left. The song doesn't progress in the standard verse/chorus format. Instead, it is basically a series of statements beginning with the words "since you've gone..." At the end, the other members of the group are chiming in, as if chanting, while Ocasek is beginning to ramble about his situation.

A song that is both well-crafted and's still a wonder it couldn't break its way into the Top 40.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Greg Guidry - "Goin' Down"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted February 13, 1982, Peaked #17, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

If this song sounds like it could have been a lost Michael McDonald song, there's good reason. Greg Guidry was a native of St. Louis -- just like McDonald was -- and the two performed in some groups together as they were growing up. While McDonald ended up moving to L.A. and becoming a star, Guidry eventually became a songwriter whose material was performed by acts like The Climax Blues Band, Exile, Robbie Dupree and Reba McEntire.

In 1981, Guidry provided backing vocals for The Allman Brothers and was able to get his own recording contract. His debut LP was Over the Line, and his first single was an impressive Top 20 hit. Sadly, after the single faded from the charts, a followup titled "Into My Love" stalled at #92 and Guidry never managed to get another album out until 2000.

Unfortunately, Greg Guidry died in a fire in 2003. He was 49 years old.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marshall Crenshaw -- "Someday, Someway"

Someday, Someway (Remastered LP Version) - Marshall Crenshaw

(Debuted July 10, 1982, Peaked #36, 11 Weeks on the Chart)

Regarded as a One-Hit wonder, Marshall Crenshaw has had a longer career than many may realize. Part of that is because he's followed the beat of his own drum when it came to his craft, but he has also spent a bunch of time working behind the scenes.

Although Crenshaw wrote "Someday, Someway," it appeared on the Hot 100 the year before as a single by Robert Gordon. It only went to #76, so it wasn't likely considered to be a remake when Crenshaw released his own version. Its jangly guitar line was catchy, sounding both retro and fresh at the same time. It had a straight beat that hearkened back to early rock, with a simple arrangement to match. From the sound of his record, Marshall Crenshaw was certainly showing his influences.

Speaking of influences, Crenshaw also appeared as a few on stage and film. His first break came as part of a touring production of Beatlemania, where he played John Lennon. His glasses and musical style led to comparisons to Buddy Holly, and Crenshaw played him as well, in the 1987 film La Bamba.

After his only Top 40 hit, Crenshaw continued touring, recording and writing. One of his biggest hits was "'Til I Hear it From You," a #9 hit for The Gin Blossoms in 1995, and he also penned the title song for the 2007 film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tane Cain - "Holdin' On"

Holdin' On - Tane Cain

(Debuted August 14, 1982, Peaked #37, 11 Weeks on the Chart)

The history of pop music is littered with One-Hit wonders, and here's one that's surprising. A face made for the music video format, a sound that relied heavy on guitar at a time when Pat Benatar was at her peak, and married to a member of Journey (then one of the biggest acts in the business). In 1982, those were strong items on a resume, but "Holdin' On" would be the only hit Tane Cane would have.

Raised in Hawaii, she was born  the daughter of actor Doug McClure. She relocated to the San Francisco Bay area by the late 1970s. It was there she met future husband Jonathan Cain, who joined Journey in 1981. In 1982, she was signed to RCA and immediately had her first Top 40 hit. Unfortunately, her self-titled debut album was a disappointing seller and no further hits followed. She did stay in the music business for a while, doing music for the soundtrack of The Terminator (as Tahnee Cain) in 1984.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Talk Talk -- "Talk Talk"

Talk Talk - Natural History - The Very Best of Talk Talk

(Debuted October 16, 1982, Peaked #75, 7 Weeks on the Chart)

When they appeared in 1982, Talk Talk may have seemed to be trying to clone Duran Duran's sound. From those New Wave beginnings, they actually transcended the trappings of that sound and stretched out their influences even as their later recordings may not have been as successful.

While "Talk Talk" may have seemed like a band raising its own billboard, the song name actually predates it. Like many New Wave groups, Talk Talk's roots began in the punk-era days in England. Mark Hollis was part of a group called The Reaction around 1977, and one of the songs they did in their set was "Talk Talk." Hollis's brother was a disk jockey in London and got the band an audition for Island Records, but the band split after one single. By 1981, Hollis had formed Talk Talk and resurrected the song for the band's debut LP.

Though the song really didn't do much on the charts in its day (#75), it stands as a decent example of New Wave music circa 1982, just as the New Romantic era was beginning to take root.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Evelyn "Champagne" King - "I'm in Love"

I'm In Love - Love Come Down: The Best of Evelyn

(Debuted July 25, 1981, Peaked #40, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

Evelyn "Champagne" King was still in her teens when she had her first hit, the Top 10 "Shame" in 1978. Though it would be the Philadelphian's biggest pop hit, she went on to score several hits on other charts throughout the 1980s. While "I'm in Love" briefly returned her to the pop Top 40 in 1981, it would be her first #1 hit on both the R&B and Dance charts.

During "Shame"'s chart run, Casey Kasem told the story on American Top 40 about how King worked with her mother, cleaning the studios at Philadelphia International Records. He said she was singing along with one of the songs there and caught the ear of a producer, which led to her getting a deal. I'm not sure how much of that is chart legend (apparently, Casey tossed out quite a few; blame his staffers who wrote his scripts), but it's a neat little story about how even the girl who empties the trash cans can get a hit single.

The YouTube video below features an early promotional video. That's what they called them in the pre-MTV days. Actually, MTV itself debuted a week after "I'm in Love" first appeared on the Billboard Hot 100. Unfortunately, King's music wasn't the kind that got played very often during MTV's early days.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rupert Holmes - "I Don't Need You"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted April 4, 1981, Peaked #56, 7 Weeks on the Chart)

Probably best known for "Escape (the Pina Colada Song)" and often mistakenly called a one-hit wonder, despite another Top 10 hit "Him" and the Top 40 "Answering Machine." Those two songs displayed a sense of humor, and so does "I Don't Need You."

While the title says "I Don't Need You," the lyrics tell an entirely different story. While he claims he's losing weight, he's also losing his mind. He even explains that he's forgotten her number, and then sings, "636-4831." he eventually admits, "I'll never take you back...unless you ask me."

Although "I Don't Need You" would be the final Rupert Holmes song to hit the Hot 100, he remained busy as a songwriter, penning the #3 Jets hit "You Got it All." He also wrote the Broadway play The Mystery of Edwin Drood and all 56 episodes of the cable TV show Remember WENN. He's continued writing plays and even novels. It can be said he's been following his creative muse all along, even during the years when he was getting hit records.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rod Stewart - "Young Turks"

Young Turks - Tonight I'm Yours

(Debuted October 17, 1981, Peaked #5, 18 Weeks on the Chart)

Songs about being young and ready to take on the world aren't exactly a recent phenomenon in popular music. Sometimes, desire to get out of the chains that seem to shackle people to their hometowns and a sense of wanderlust are natural occurrences, and an awful lot of songs over the years have fed from that feeling. In this song, the kids (named Billy and Patti) decide to run away together and find whatever is calling them. They take the jump together, head to the coast, move into a little apartment and eventually start a family.

A video for this song (not the YouTube video shown below) was played heavily on MTV, Night Flight HBO's Video Jukebox and other video outlets. The young couple included the actress E.G. Daily, who had a minor hit of her own later, and the video itself was among the first to feature breakdancers. 

Interestingly, the line "Young Turks" never appears anywhere in the lyrics.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Santana - "Winning"

Winning - The Best of Santana

(Debuted April 11, 1981, Peaked #17, 18 Weeks on the Chart)

First of all...I swear that I didn't pick a song with this particular title as a result of the recent nonsense regarding Charlie Sheen. This was picked out before that happened. I will, however, happily take any traffic Google sends my way as a result of the coincidence.

Yesterday's entry featured a guitarist who let others handle vocal duties while he wowed the audience with his instrument, and today's entry does the exact same thing.

The biggest difference between the two, however, is that Carlos Santana and his namesake band were already well-known by the general public, thanks to a breakout performance at the Woodstock festival in 1969 and a successful chart career during the early 1970s. The hits tailed off as Santana experimented with different styles and explored his spiritual side, but he never stopped recording. When "Winning" appeared, it was Santana's first Top 20 pop hit since 1971.

"Winning" was written by Russ Ballard, a British artist whose influence is likely deeper than many realize. He has written several hit songs through the years, including "New York Groove," Since You've Been Gone," "I Know There's Something Going On," "You Can Do Magic," "Liar" and "So You Win Again." The vocals were performed by Alex Ligertwood, and the pop sound was a marked difference from the bigger hits of Santana's 1970s work.For a little while, it was nice to have a Santana song on the radio again.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lee Ritenour - "Is it You"

Is It You? - Rit, Vol. 1

(Debuted April 25, 1981, Peaked #15, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

Although "Is it You" shows as his only Top 40 hit, Lee Ritenour was no stranger to popular music. He had been adding his guitar to many projects over the years. Adept at several different styles, he was known as "Captain Fingers" for his nimble fretwork. By the time he was 16, he was doing sessions for The Mamas & the Papas. By the mid 1970s, he had become one of L.A.'s highly sought-after session musicians and his work appeared on hundreds of albums that came out of the city. Among the better known acts who used his services: Barbra Streisand, Pink Floyd (he recorded extra guitars for The Wall's "Run Like Hell"), Diana Ross, Steely Dan and George Benson. His guitar was featured on Melissa Manchester's 1979 hit "Don't Cry Out Loud" and in the original instrumental scores for the films Saturday Night Fever and Grease.

When he released "Is it You" as a single from his Rit LP, he stayed behind his guitar. Eric Tagg, his bass player, took care of the vocals for the song. A promotional video for the song (as well as another for the non-Hot 100 song "Mr. Briefcase") were among the videos played on the first day of programming for MTV on August 1, 1981, even though the song was no longer on the Hot 100 at the time.

Although Ritenour only had one more low-charting hit under his name, he has continued to be busy on the road and in the studio. He has also continued providing his licks to movie scores, composing the love theme to An Officer and a Gentleman, among others.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Robert Flack & Donny Hathaway -- "Back Together Again"

Back Together Again - Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway

(Debuted May 17, 1980, Peaked #56, 8 Weeks on the Chart)

Although this song likely deserved to be a bigger hit than it was, it would have been a sad reminder if it had actually gone into the Top 40. That's because Donny Hathaway had apparently jumped from the window of a hotel where he was staying on January 13, 1979. Since he had been battling depression, the death was ruled a suicide.

During his bouts with depression, Hathaway managed to push Roberta Flack away despite the series of hit duets they had in the early 1970s. After not speaking to each other for several years, they reconciled in 1978 and recorded a #2 pop hit called "The Closer I Get to You." A duet album was planned; however, Hathaway only recorded two songs for it before his untimely death.

The YouTube video below has the full 9-minute version of the song, which gives a proper appreciation for the chemistry Flack and Hathaway shared, as well as the talent that was so quickly silenced when he made the fateful decision that ended his life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fred Knoblock -- "Why Not Me"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted June 28, 1980, Peaked #18, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

A decade before Garth Brooks sang about crashing the wedding reception of a former flame, another Nashville-based singer/songwriter covered the occasion in a more low-key manner. This time around, he attends the wedding, keeps his feelings bottled up and just silently drowns his sorrow in the bottle at the reception. All the while, he's left wondering why he wasn't the guy standing at the end of the aisle.

"Why Not Me" is one of those songs that is sadly forgotten when the hits of 1980 are remembered. If you're not familiar with it, give the video below a few minutes. It has a maturity that matched what many Baby Boomers were beginning to experience by the time the 80s rolled around.

Fred Knoblock had one other Top 40 pop hit, a duet with Susan Anton called "Killin' Time." Later in the decade, he teamed with fellow singer/songwriters Paul Overstreet and Thom Schuyler to form S-K-O. They had a #1 country song in 1987 with "Baby's Got a New Baby."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Amy Holland -- "How Do I Survive"

How Do I Survive - Lost Hits of the 80's (All Original Artists & Versions)

(Debuted August 9, 1980, Peaked #22, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

Michael McDonald was all over the radio dial in 1980. Not only was he singing with The Doobie Brothers, he was writing songs, singing backup on a lot of hit singles and even producing artists. One of those artists was Amy Holland, whose debut LP contained "How Do I Survive." In the case of Holland, the partnership went on well beyond the sound board, as the two married a few years later.

Amy Holland was born into a musical family. Her mother was a country singer and her father sang in the opera. Although "How Do I Survive" was the only Top 40 hit of her career, she managed to get her voice onto several film soundtracks including Scarface, St. Elmo's Fire and Teen Wolf. Not surprisingly, she also handled background vocals on Michael McDonald's solo records as well.

Beginning with a funky bass line, the song ends up sounding like a well-oiled MOR machine. The song is typical of 1980 production-wise, which is really good if you happen to like that era's pop music (and not so good if you're more of a New Wave fan). Check out the great saxophone solo nearly three minutes into the song. It may be due to the clean production given to it, but the song still sounds pretty good more than 30 years after it was released.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Electric Light Orchestra -- "Last Train to London"

Last Train to London - Discovery

(Debuted December 8, 1979, Peaked #39, 10 Weeks on the Chart)

By all rational accounts, The Electric Light Orchestra should have been finished by the time this song came out. Their heyday was in the 1970s and they were coming out with a disco-influenced album -- Discovery literally read: "Disco? Very!" -- after the backlash that killed disco. However, the group was remarkably adaptable and was able to keep getting hit songs even as the landscape of the music business changed around them.

While the song made its debut on the Billboard chart in December of '79, it didn't reach the Top 40 until after the New Year. Yes, it's a disco song, but you can hear that the band was in the process of transitioning from the "Orchestra" part of its name to the "Electric" part. That was probably smart, as the music of the 80s was also moving from the orchestrated backing music that marked everything from Philly Soul to disco and going toward a sound that was heavy on synthesizers and drum machines.

Besides that, it's a damned catchy melody.