Friday, March 30, 2012

Meli'sa Morgan - "Do Me Baby"

Do Me Baby - Do Me Baby

(Debuted January 25, 1986, Peaked #46, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

During the mid-1980s, there weren't many stars that were bigger than Prince. So it wasn't a bad career move at the time to release one of his songs. In the case of "Do Me Baby," it had initially appeared on his 1981 LP Controversy. It was released as a single, but failed to chart. Its seductive lyrics (suited for singers like Teddy Pendergrass or Barry White) weren't really in style for the era, but when Meli'sa Morgan recreated it in 1986, the female perspective gave it an entirely different outlook.

Morgan was a gospel-influenced singer from Queens, New York who released music under her name from 1986 through '92. Before that, she was briefly part of the dance-based studio groups Shades of Love and High Fashion and a gospel choir called Starlets of Corona. "Do Me Baby" would be her only Hot 100 listing and barely missed the Top 40, but would hit #1 on the R&B chart, where she would rack up several more hits.

While "Do Me Baby" is credited to Prince as a songwriter and certainly fits the style he crafted over the years, it was actually written by his then-bass player Andre Cymone. He left Prince's employ in 1981 over creative differences but patched things up enough to enjoy some of the fruits of his success in the mid-1980s.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Robert Palmer - "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On"

I Didn't Mean to Turn You On - Riptide

(Debuted August 16, 1986, Peaked #2, 21 Weeks on the Chart)

This is the second Robert Palmer song I've featured in this blog ("Early in the Morning" was the first), and both songs are remakes of previous R&B hits done in Palmer's unique style. Both were also songs that I hadn't realized were remakes until much later, since MTV and the radio stations I listened to weren't likely to play the originals.

"I Didn't Mean To Turn You On" was originally a hit for the singer Cherelle, who took it to #8 on the R&B chart and to #79 pop in 1984. As an apology for not wanting to take a relationship to any physical level, the song had a skewed perspective coming from the male point of view. Because in my own experience, we're dogs...and there's no getting past that.

That said, as Palmer slyly purrs his way through the song, he seems to be politely explaining that he was just interested in a night of dancing and conversation...but the invitation to accompany him to his place for a drink wasn't meant to be an invitation to slip into anything more comfortable. While I certainly understand what's behind this song than I did back when I was 14 (and having a daughter who's almost that age now, I find I'm more likely to agree), I'm still calling BS. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force - "All Cried Out"

All Cried Out - Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam With Full Force

(Debuted July 26, 1986, Peaked #8, 25 Weeks on the Chart)

In 1985, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force appeared in the lower reaches of the Top 40 with "I Wonder if I Take You Home," a dance-fueled song that was presented to us (I say that as I was a teen at the time and was part of a church group that had modern music presented to us as a way of connecting with us on certain subjects) as a warning against "giving it up." Actually, I was the one who keyed in on the fact that she wasn't saying "no" in the song as much as "not yet, I want you to respect me," which was then avoided by those who asked me to consider the words in the first place. That said, they meant well. Now, I'm a father of a girl who is now the same age as I was then and I'm realizing that she's going to start having that inner dialogue herself.

But this entry isn't about "I Wonder if I Take You Home." (See? I'm dropping it too, right when it's become uncomfortable). It's about the song that followed it up...almost a year later.

"All Cried Out" is a ballad that has aged really well over the years. In a way, it can be seen as a logical corollary to the message of "I Wonder if I Take You Home," where she gave in to temptation and took it hard when he left anyway. On the other hand, it is a great song about dealing with the aftermath of infidelity and a breakup that resulted from it. The fact that Lisa Lisa was 19 years old when the song was released and was able to put in a convincing performance says a lot. It points to a vocal range that she hasn't really been able to show with her more dance-oriented material.

Sang as a duet with Full Force members Paul Anthony and Bow-Legged Lou, the song offers both sides of the affected couple. The male side eventually comes back to apologize (as we sometimes do once we realize we've just made a mistake and really don't want to lose the good thing we once had), but she's not having any of it. Even if it means she knows it's going to hurt.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Pet Shop Boys - "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)"

Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money) - Please

(Debuted May 31, 1986, Peaked #10, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

Yesterday, I featured a song in this blog that was a surprising disappointment when compared to the success of the hit it followed. Today's song didn't do so poorly (it went Top 10 here in the U.S.), but it underperformed by comparison. In fact, to my ears, "Opportunities" was an even better song than "West End Girls," which hit #1 in the Spring of 1986.

With "Opportunities (Let's Make a Lot of Money)," the two members of the group, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, focused on a subject that was really big during the 1980s: money, and acquiring lots of it. Despite the forward-looking lyrics, it's hinted that the schemes in the lines are doomed for failure. The mix of irony and cynicism is often lost on listeners. The song was written in 1983 and recorded along with the duo's earlier material. When they were signed to a larger label, they re-recorded it and released it as their first single. It stiffed.

However, their next single was "West End Girls," a surprise smash in several countries. As a result, "Opportunities" was once again re-recorded and issued as a single again. It ended up being the duo's only single to do better in the U.S. than in their native U.K. (where it reached #11).

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Bangles - "If She Knew What She Wants"

If She Knew What She Wants - Different Light

(Debuted May 10, 1986, Peaked #29, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

While The Bangles enjoyed several hits during the last half of the 1980s before splitting up, their bigger hits ("Walk Like an Egyptian," "Manic Monday," "Hazy Shade of Winter," "Eternal Flame") tend to get spotlighted at the expense of the others. That's a shame, because they had more Top 40 hits that should get some love, too. That's one of the reasons I started writing 80s Music Mayhem, and this is one of those tunes.

"If She Knew What She Wants" was written by Jules Shear, who had recorded it on his 1985 LP The Eternal Return. In that version, he sang the lyrics in the first person, but when The Bangles covered the song, the "I" was changed to "he" rather than changing the gender of the subject. After the success of "Manic Monday," it was released as a followup single. Personally, I'm as amazed that "If She Knew What She Wants" stopped at #29 as I am that "Walking Down Your Street" met a similar lack of respect on the heels of "Walk Like an Egyptian" the next year.

Friday, March 23, 2012

John Fogerty - "Centerfield"

Centerfield - Centerfield (Remastered)

(Debuted May 25, 1985, Peaked #44, 13 Weeks on the Chart)

In a couple of weeks, the 2012 major league baseball season kicks off. With that in mind, this is the perfect time to toss out this song. Though it's been a familiar presence to those of us who are fans of the sport ever since it was released, it oddly missed the Top 40 during its chart run.

Centerfield was John Fogerty's "comeback" LP after nearly a decade away, and it touched on a lot of topics that called back to his childhood. And at that point in history, baseball was having a golden age and Fogerty was about to turn 13 when the New York Giants moved west to his native California. The song began after Fogerty watched the 1984 All-Star game from the seats behind centerfield in San Francisco's Candlestick Park.

Awash with references that most baseball fans would recognize, "Centerfield" name drops legends like Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays, tips its cap to Casey At the Bat, and exhorts the coach to put him into the game. Over the years, it's become a very popular song at baseball games, and its synthesized hand-clapping that starts the tune has even been used for events for different sports.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chicago - "Along Comes a Woman"

Along Comes a Woman - Chicago 17 (Bonus Track Version)

(Debuted February 23, 1985, Peaked #14, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

By early 1985, Peter Cetera was ready to strike out on his own. He had been a very important part of the group Chicago (and its overall sound) for more than 15 years as one of the band's lead singers and the writer of several of their biggest hits, including the group's only #1 singles during his tenure, "If You Leave Me Now" and "Hard To Say I'm Sorry."

His last single as the group's singer was "Along Comes a Woman," a #14 hit in the Spring of 1985. Though the group had long been considered a "faceless" band due to their largely generic album covers that showed logos instead of group portraits, but the avdent of MTV and videos began to change that focus. They would show the band performing their music...and Cetera specifically, since he was singing many of the songs. His rugged good looks may have also played a part -- as Chicago also had two other lead singers -- in making him appear to be the "leader" of the group as the 1980s moved on.
At the same time, Cetera began to tire of the long-term touring required to support their albums. Chicago 17's tour had taken nearly a year, and he was hoping to spend more time with his family. The group, however, was making plans for their next LP and a dual solo/group career (similar to what Phil Collins had with Genesis) wasn't something that anybody felt could be sustained. So, in July of '85, Cetera left his long-time band. They still managed hit singles, but it can be argued the band wasn't the same without him.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Klymaxx - "I Miss You"

I Miss You - Meeting In the Ladies Room

(Debuted September 14, 1985, Peaked #5, 28 Weeks on the Chart)

Klymaxx was a six-woman band from Los Angeles led by Bernadette Cooper. They were formed in 1979 and part of the SOLAR Records constellation until 1983. "I Miss You" was their first Top 40 hit and a crossover smash. The band eventually had five chart singles before breaking up in the 1990s.

"I Miss You" is a ballad about dealing with the effects of a breakup. The singer is still in the process of making sense of what has happened: expecting him to be on the line when when the phone rings, she's still hearing his voice when people are talking and she's still expecting him to walk through the door even though it's apparent that he never will. And she's beginning to understand the finality but still holds out hope that things are going to work out. In 1987, the band had another song that held out a similar hope, called "I'd Still Say Yes."
In the year-end countdown for 1986, "I Miss You" ended up ranking at #3, a higher position than it managed to achieve at any point of its entire chart run. It had lingered on the chart for so long that it racked up enough points in the tally to get that boost.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Pointer Sisters - "Dare Me"

Dare Me - I'm So Excited

(Debuted July 13, 1985, Peaked #11, 18 Weeks on the Chart)

 The Pointer Sisters had a long career, first as a quartet that spanned several genres (blues, R&B, funk and even country) during the 1970s and then as a trio that was solidly pop-oriented in the 1980s. That latter period was their most successful, which is ironic because they tried to avoid the pop sound during their early years. By 1985, their "sound" had been pretty well set.
"Dare Me" was another song that closely followed the format of the group in the 1980s. An uptempo number that was driven by a synthesizer-led accompaniment, it peaked just short of the Top 10, which turned out to be as close as the sisters managed to get to the level again. Despite that, it was the only single of theirs that ever topped the Billboard dance chart. That said, the song has become part of a legend that is unrelated to them.

During the chart run of "Dare Me," it was the song that was scheduled before one of Casey Kasem's "Long Distance Dedications" during the American Top 40 radio show that was about a beloved dog that had gone off to the Big Meadow in the Sky. Feeling that it wasn't right to come out of a high-energy dance number only to segue into a serious matter (which, as a former radio guy, I will admit is a tough thing to do), Kasem launched into a rant that has become an Internet legend. Part of the reason for the rant was justified, but due to fact that it was yet another example of a radio host ripping into his production staff and a complete change from Kasem's image as an affable host -- this was the voice of Shaggy dropping the F-bomb, for crying out loud -- it has continued to live on in sound bites.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Night Ranger - "Four in the Morning (I Can't Take Anymore)"

Four In the Morning - 7 Wishes

(Debuted August 24, 1985, Peaked #19, 13 Weeks on the Chart)

As a writer, I sometimes try not to look at the clock while I'm working. Frankly, most of the time I really don't want to know how late it is. I've been known to write stuff late into the night, so the first line of the song ("Four in the morning came without a warning") is something I've been able to relate to. For Night Ranger member Jack Blades, that was the time it was when he wrote this song. "Write what you know," the saying goes...

As one of three hit singles from Night Ranger's LP Seven Wishes, "Four in the Morning (I Can't Take Anymore)" was a continuation of a string of hits that began with the MTV monster hit "Sister Christian" in 1984. Little did we know at the time, the ride was soon about to end. However, the song was a hook-filled confection that exemplified what we now call "arena rock," chock-full of 1980s music cliches yet still sounding good all these years later. Part of it sounds like a narrator talking to a half-empty beer bottle just before the bar is about to close, but it deserves to be better remembered than it eventually became.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rockwell - "Obscene Phone Caller"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted May 15, 1984, Peaked #35, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

"Rockwell" was the stage name of Kennedy Gordy, the son of Motown founder Berry Gordy. The story goes that he changed his name to avoid charges of nepotism and that he secured his singing with Motown without his father's knowledge. That said, I'm not sure what to make of the claim. The Motown family was small enough that -- even if Gordy wasn't aware that his own son was signed to the label right away -- there was no way to get on the label without somebody knowing they were putting his son on the label. Also, there was no secret about Rockwell's true identity during the chart run of his biggest hit "Somebody's Watching Me." Radio announcers, MTV VJs and Casey Kasem were all quick to point out his bloodline at that time.

That song would get Rockwell labeled as a One-Hit wonder, but he did manage to get a second hit that peaked in the Top 40 during the Summer of '84. A song that could be categorized as a novelty in the hands of some artists, the main theme of "Obscene Phone Caller" fed in to the paranoia behind his first hit quite neatly. The two songs were his entire slate of chart entries, so he was off the Motown label around the same time his father sold it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Corey Hart - "It Ain't Enough"

It Ain't Enough - Corey Hart: The Singles

(Debuted September 29, 1984, Peaked #17, 18 Weeks on the Chart)

For those of us who grew up in the 1980s, this may come as a bit of a shock: Corey Hart will be celebrating his 50th birthday in a couple of months. The Canadian-born singer made his first appearance on the Hot 100 in 1984 with the instant classic "Sunglasses at Night," and followed it up with a ballad called "It Ain't Enough" that was a totally different feel from the synth-driven sound of the first hit.

That said, there are several 1980s music cliches on display in the song: the sparse guitar chords that accent to lyrics, the brooding saxophone, the background singers echoing his words and the drums that are mixed way too loud in the mix. Despite all that, the lyrics express a devotion that is unending (even as he seems to be complaining that he isn't able to do enough to please her) but is metaphorical. I'll bet that once he got married, he learned a totally different idea about what "ain't enough" for her.

In 1984, however, the song was an easy touch that was a popular "request line" song even though it stalled at #17 in its chart run. Funny thing about Corey Hart's career...he had 9 songs that reached the Top 40 through 1990 and even had a bigger hit in 1985 with "Never Surrender," but is often considered to be a One-Hit Wonder for "Sunglasses At Night."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Go-Gos - "Head Over Heels"

Head over Heels - Talk Show

(Debuted March 17, 1984, Peaked #11, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

The Go-Gos are labeled as pioneers today, vanguards of a New Wave sound that saw them become one of the first all-female acts (who played their own instruments as opposed to a vocal combo) to make regular inroads into the Top 40. I was too young to appreciate that when I was a kid. Back then, their music was just fun.

In 1984, they came out with a new LP called Talk Show, which skewed more pop than the two previous albums that made them stars. While that might have otherwise led to more hits, it sold poorly when compared to their earlier work. There was also some internal dissention between group members and personal problems that eventually led to their breakup. That said, the new album managed to contain two Top 40 hits including "Head Over Heels," which was a bright spot on a record that many of the bandmates really want to forget. It was the perfect marriage of pop music and solid production, and the video for the song was fun to watch. For a band that was about to fracture, they didn't look like it from afar.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Barry Manilow - "Read 'em and Weep"

Read 'Em and Weep - The Essential Barry Manilow

(Debuted November 19, 1983, Peaked #18, 13 Weeks on the Chart)

At the end of 1983, Jim Steinman must have seemed like one of the most importatnt writers and producers in the music business besides Michael Jackson. At one point in October, he held down the top two spots as writer and producer with Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and Air Supply's "Making Love Out of Nothing at All." As both of those songs were making their way down the chart, another song written and produced by Steinman appeard on the Top 40: Barry Manilow's "Read 'em and Weep."

Unlike the other two hits, "Read 'em and Weep" was a song that had already been done. It was originally recorded and released in 1981 as part of an album by Steinman's most famous partner: Meat Loaf. On the Dead Ringer LP, the song had a slightly different second verse and had been given his over-the-top vocal treatment. It was a hit in the U.K., but American listeners had grown tired of Meat Loaf's music and largely ignored it. So, in 1983 it was given new life by a similarly over-the-top performer, Barry Manilow, who included it as one of the three new songs in his Greatest Hits, Vol. II compliation. It would be a Top 40 pop hit and a #1 adult contemporary hit, marking the last time Manilow would ever reach those marks.

Barry Manilow gets a lot of greif about many of his 1970s hits and is often seen as something on an anachronism in the 1980s, but too many of his songs are too well-known to dismiss his effect. In fact, his style is almost perfect for Steinman's often bombastic production. The lyrics are typically (for Steinman, that is) obtuse and borrow heavily from the theater, and the video shown below appropritely features Manilow in the makeup of a clown. His rendition of "Read 'em and Weep" was well-suited for the early 1980s, even if few wanted to realize it at the time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Scorpions - "Still Loving You"

Still Loving You - Love at First Sting

(Debuted July 7, 1984, Peaked #64, 6 Weeks on the Chart)

Here's another song that was played a lot more often on MTV than its peak position would indicate. The Scorpions were a band from Hannover in what was then West Germany, a band that had become synonomous with German hard rock since the 1970s and had gained success as a album act in the U.S. as the 1980s started.

"Still Loving You" was a power ballad that finished the group's LP Love at First Sting. Though largely seen as a love song that has a couple trying to figure out whether to go on together or separately, it's interesting to point out that a band from West Germany had a line like "only love can bring down a wall someday" when there was still a literal wall dividing their country in two parts.

While failing to reach the pop Top 40 as its predecessor "Rock You Like a Hurricane," "Still Loving You" is one of the band's best-known ballads and was a frequent resident of mix tapes of the era. Written by singer Klaus Meine with the band's guitarist and founder Rudolf Schenker, it epitomizes the 1980s proto-metal power ballad. Even today, it still brings down the house when performed in concert.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Weather Girls - "It's Raining Men"

It's Raining Men - Success

(Debuted January 22, 1983, Peaked #46, 11 Weeks on the Chart)

Revisionist history is interesting. If you didn't live through the 1980s, you might have thought that "It's Raining Men" would have been a Top 10 hit because it's been given a lot of exposure over the years. However, it failed to even reach the Top 40 and only reached #34 on the R&B chart. The dance clubs were hip to it, though, and it was really popular there, as well as a #2 hit in the U.K. Fortunately, its potential was realized over the years and it has come to be seen as a camp classic as well as an anthem for both the gay and female audiences.

The Weather Girls were Martha Wash and Izora Armstead. They were both backup singers for the Disco singer Sylvester and eventually struck out on their own, originally with the name Two Tons o' Fun. "It's Raining Men" was their biggest hit, and they parted ways in late in the decade. Wash became an in-demand session singer who was the "real" voice behind Black Box and the C+C Music Factory, and Armstead managed a new version of The Weather Girls consisting of her daughters Ingrid Arthur and Dynelle Rhodes before passing away in 2004.

"It's Raining Men" was written by producer and former Disco artist Paul Jabara and current David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer. Before The Weather Girls recorded it, it was turned down by Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Cher and Donna Summer (all of whom could have given it an interesting sound). Judging from that list, it appears to have been targeted for the gay audience right from the beginning. I'm beginning to wonder if Dionne Warwick would have been offered it as well.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Madness - "It Must Be Love"

It Must Be Love - Madness: Ultimate Collection

(Debuted August 20, 1983, Peaked #33, 12 Weeks on the Chart)

Madness are best-known here in the U.S. for their hit single "Our House," a #7 hit in the Summer of 1983. Since they often get labeled as One-Hit Wonders, it's safe to say that many have forgotten that they did score a follow-up Top 40 hit in America that same year with "It Must Be Love." What even fewer realize is that the song had been a hit two years earlier in the band's native U.K.

Madness had been part of the Ska scene that followed the fury of Punk in Great Britain. From 1979-'86 they were the best-selling group in the country, racking up several hit singles. In the States, however, they weren't known at all outside of those who followed the U.K. music scene. When their music was introduced to the U.S., their record company chose to put out a compliation LP that drew from several of the band's English recordings instead of simply issuing a version of their latest LP. As a result, "It Must Be Love" (a single-only release from '81) was one of the songs on the LP Madness.

Ironically, the group's U.S. breakthrough came just as their success at home began flagging. The Top 10 hits stopped arriving in 1984, and internal strife caused them to split for the first time in 1986.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Taco - "Puttin' On the Ritz"

Puttin' On the Ritz (Radio Edit) - Puttin' On the Ritz - EP

(Debuted June 25, 1983, Peaked #4, 21 Weeks on the Chart)

The first time I remember hearing Taco's "Puttin' On the Ritz," I was close to 11 years old and riding in my grandmother's car. Grandma wasn't normally "with it" when it came to current pop music, so I was a little surprised that she knew the words to the song. Then, she told me that it was a song that had been popular when she was a lot younger. At the time, I thought she was putting me on.

A little while later, I did some research in my school library and discovered that -- sure enough -- it was written in 1929 by Irving Berlin and was a parody of the high-class socialites of the Roaring Twenties, just before the Great Depression. It had been recorded several times over the years and had been part of several films, including one where Fred Astaire leads his own line of dancers. It also appeared in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein. Since Astaire is identified with the song, there is a tap-dance routine in the instrumental bridge of Taco's version the song (as well as a "Gotta dance!" refrain near the end). The instrumental bridge also includes passages from other Berlin songs like "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "Always."

Taco (that's his real first name, his last name is Ockerse) is Dutch, but was born in Indonesia and based in Germany. "Puttin' On the Ritz" would be his only American hit, as his follow up "Singin' in the Rain" stiffed and further releases failed to chart. He has continued his musical career, focusing on Europe, as well as acting.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Earth, Wind and Fire - "Fall in Love With Me"

Fall In Love With Me - Powerlight

(Debuted January 22, 1983, Peaked #17, 16 Weeks on the Chart)

By 1983, Earth Wind & Fire had long jettisoned the full brass sound that was their hallmark in the 1970s for a more electronic one. The reason wasn't because of personnel issues or internal strife; as the new decade rolled around, music fans were showing different tastes and funk was evolving. The group was forced to evolve with it or end up joining the other groups who were steamrolled by changing times. This may have been a lesson they learned during the Disco era. They weren't really a Disco group despite recording some danceable tunes, and weren't overly affected by the decline of the sound.

"Fall in Love With Me" is a perfect example of the new direction of the band's sound. The first single from their LP Powerlight, it showed that even though the instruments had changed on their singles, their positive, uplifting message was fully intact. Maurice White handles the lead vocals here, singing the lyrics written by Emotions member Wanda Vaughn and her husband Wayne. It's not one of their better-known tunes, but it's still definitely worth listening to.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Linda Ronstadt - "I Knew You When"

I Knew You When - Get Closer

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

At the time "I Knew You When" came out, it was yet another song in a very long string of songs that had been hits by other artists to which Linda Ronstadt would lend her distinctive voice. It was originally written by Joe South and had been a hit in 1965 for Billy Joe Royal and again as part of a two-sided 1972 Donny Osmond single. Ronstadt's version restored the opening "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah" refrain that Royal did but Osmond left to his backup singers. It scratched the lower reaches of the Top 40 early in 1983 and quickly dropped from memory.

After that, Ronstadt did something that might have been seen as a risky career move. She grew tired of being the queen of cover songs and began exploring other areas of her musical interests. A trio of big band LPs with Nelson Riddle's orchestra followed, which really kick-started the "Great American Songbook" concept that other artists have followed. She also explored her own personal heritage, recording traditional Mexican songs. She also finished a collaboration with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris that was planned as early as 1978 but was sidetracked because all three were extrememly busy. The pure country concept LP that followed appeared just as the genre was embracing more traditional styles over the slicker, poppier "Countrypolitan" sound.

Despite the temptation to stick with what was successful, Ronstadt decided it was time to take her career in her own chosen direction, without regard for the consequences. That's an admirable thing from an artist who had been a multi-platinum seller for more than a decade.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force - "Planet Rock"

(Debuted July 17, 1982, Peaked #48, 11 Weeks on the Chart)

"Planet Rock" is one of the songs that is credited as a trailblazing work in the Hip Hop world. And like many Hip Hop and Rap compositions, it heavily borrows from earlier material to create an entirely new sound. The main sythesizer riff is borrowed from Kraftwerk's 1977 song "Trans-Europe Express" and the beat is borrowed from the same group's 1981 song "Numbers." A song from Yellow Magic Orchestra called "Riot in Lagos" is also interpolated into the body of the song. Like many of the early pioneers of the new sound, it wasn't much of a hit immediately, and would remain underground (but most importantly, in the minds and on the turntables of the DJs who provided the backing music for the rappers) for several years before its effect was fully realized.

In short, it was one of the indicators that a new sound was creeping out from the underground, and listeners could let the beat move them. Otherwise, they needed to get out of the way because it wasn't going to be stopped once it built up.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lionel Richie - "Truly"

Truly - Lionel Richie (Remastered)

(Debuted October 9, 1982, Peaked #1, 17 Weeks on the Chart)

It's easy to forget just how big Lionel Richie was in the music world of the 1980s. After leaving The Commodores in 1981, his first 13 singles (not counting "We Are the World," which he co-wrote and sang on) all went top 10 on the pop, R&B and contemporary charts. The 14th single was "Deep River Woman," which missed those heights but still went Top 10 on the country chart. For a five-year period, it was hard to find a performer with more crossover success.

His first non-duet solo single was called "Truly," a song that started the new phase of his career on the right note. It went to #1 for multiple weeks on both the pop and AC charts, was #2 on the R&B survey and even went Top 10 in the U.K. Despite sounding a lot like The Commodores' song "Still," which he also wrote and sang, it was a tender ballad of devotion that ranked among the year's top songs at a time when the "old" ways of the 1970s weren't supposed to be in vogue anymore. However, all bets and conventions are off when the subject concerns matters of the heart.