Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tina Turner - "One of the Living"

One of the Living (Extended Version) - Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

(Debuted October 5, 1985, Peaked #15, 17 Weeks on the Chart)

It's interesting how the passage of time has changed the way I look at certain songs. In some cases, life experience has a hand in that, while others are merely a reflection of the fact that I just listen differently than when I was younger. I hear things now that just wouldn't have registered with me before.

In 1985, Tina Turner co-starred in the third Mad Max film, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, which continued the saga of "Mad Max" Rockatansky, a survivalist figure from the future. Having Turner in the project allowed her to record a pair of songs for the soundtrack, the #2 smash "We Don't Need Another Hero" and "One of the Living," which played over the opening credits of the film. Both songs were written by teams that helped contribute material to Turner's breakthrough 1984 LP Private Dancer, and Holly Knight -- who composed "Better Be Good to Me" -- was the writer of "One of the Living."

As a kid, I really didn't care for either song. I found "We Don't Need Another Hero" to be overplayed and boring, and probably just transferred that to the followup, because I don't really remember giving it a lot of thought during its chart run. I was aware of the song, but really didn't pay a lot of attention to it. So, imagine my surprise several years later, when I hear both tunes in a new context: removed from the overkill of constant radio exposure and a renewed opinion of Tina Turner. Yes, both tunes are big productions (they're from a movie score, so that's to be expected), but the changed perspective on my part has allowed me to actually enjoy them now.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Katrina and the Waves - "Do You Want Crying"

Do You Want Crying - Katrina & The Waves

(Debuted July 27, 1985, Peaked #37, 10 Weeks on the Chart)

This is the second song from Katrina and the Waves I've featured on this blog (The first on was here last May), and neither of them are the one song the band is best remembered for performing. However, both were Top 40 hits in their own right, which dismisses any claims that they are a One-Hit Wonder. That said, the claim will persist as long as "Walking on Sunshine" remains the only song any of the more mainstream 1980s outlets bothers to play.

Today's entry features the followup single "Do You Want Cryin'," an upbeat number written by the group's bass player Vincent de la Cruz which went to #37 during the late summer of '85. Part of its success can be attributed to the strength of "Waking on Sushine," but the jangly piece of power pop still made the Top 40 on its own merit. What many don't realize, however, is that all the songs on the group's 1985 Katrina & the Waves LP were re-recorded versions of songs the band had already recorded on earlier albums. Their earlier success in England and Canada was good enough to lead to an American release, but the record company took advantage of a bigger budget to embellish several songs and give them a slicker production.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

John Waite - "Every Step of the Way"

Every Step of the Way - Mask of Smiles

(Debuted August 10, 1985, Peaked #25, 12 Weeks on the Chart)

John Waite enjoyed three phases of stardom in his career. From 1977-80 he was the leader of The Babys. He went solo in 1982 and enjoyed a #1 hit with "Missing You" in 1984. After the hits dried up, he joined the supergroup Bad English and started off a new decade with another #1, "When I See You Smile." Waite has since returned to solo work, but pop music has moved in another direction. Not that he cares (or should he); Waite does his own thing and enjoys a fairly sizable fan following anyway.

"Every Step of the Way" is a tune from Waite's first solo period, and is the biggest hit he had in the U.S. besides "Missing You." It was the first single from his 1985 LP Mask of Smiles, the first one he recorded after his biggest hit. Waite wrote the lyrics, while Ivan Kral composed the melody. With the passage of time, the public memory of this hit seems to grow dimmer, but it deserves to get played from time to time.

Monday, May 28, 2012

DeBarge - "You Wear it Well"

You Wear It Well - Rhythm of the Night

(Debuted August 31 1985, Peaked #46, 10 Weeks on the chart)

"You Wear it Well" was a track off Rhythm of the Night, which was the most successful record the family act DeBarge put out. However, changes were on the horizon. After two Top 10 pop hits, Motown offered solo contracts to two of the family members (El and Bunny), but were ready to drop the others. Shortly after the third single was being promoted, El DeBarge guest-starred on the show The Facts of Life and sang "You Wear it Well" as a solo act, with that show's stars "singing" backup behind him.

Makes you wonder if anybody out there thinks it's a solo project, or if the girls from Eastland are actually on the tune.

Of the four chart singles DeBarge released from that album, "You Wear it Well" was the only one written by anybody from the family. El wrote it with his brother Chico (who recorded solo, not as part of the group). The song missed the pop Top 40 but was a #1 Dance hit as well as an R&B hit.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Shakin' Stevens - "Cry Just a Little Bit"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted April 21, 1984, Peaked #67, 6 Weeks on the Chart)

In the U.K., Shakin' Stevens was one of the biggest-selling acts of the 1980s. In a five-year period, the Welsh-born singer racked up 14 Top 10 hits and five #1 singles. After more than ten years of paying dues, he took an appearance in a stage play about Elvis Presley and began a new phase as a phenomenon. His photogenic looks and stage charisma made him appeal to multiple age groups.

In the U.S., however, Ronnie McDowell had already done the trick of turning an Elvis association into a career jumpstart, and "Cry Just a Little Bit" ended up being Stevens' only chart single. The song peaked at #67, meaning that few Americans would be exposed to Stevens at all.

To add insult to injury, Stevens' rendition isn't even the best-known version of the song in America. It was later performed by the country singer Sylvia, who took it to #9 on that survey the following year.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tony Carey - "A Fine Fine Day"

A Fine, Fine Day - Some Tough City

(Debuted March 3, 1984, Peaked #22, 15 Weeks on the Chart)

While largely seen as a One-Hit Wonder, Tony Carey had been active in the music business for a decade before "A Fine Fine Day" became his biggest hit. He had been a member of Rainbow during the late 1970s and fronted The Planet P Project in the early 1980s. The two bands could not have been more different; Rainbow was a hard rock outfit, while The Planet P Project was an experimental outlet. As a keyboardist, the two acts suited Carey, though.

Eventually, Carey cut some solo records as well. In 1984, he appeared with an album called Some Tough City, a collection of songs about people struggling (and often failing) to stay afloat in the big city. One of those characters was "Uncle Sonny" in "A Fine Fine Day," who was shown in the video (shown below) to be a Mafia associate who'd run afoul of his old friends after leaving prison, but whose fate in the song is rather vague.

The images in the video were a stark contrast; the bright harmonies of the synthesizer and the hopeful sound of the chorus didn't exactly match the visuals. To me, that was part of its charm. Here's a song that acknowledges that life isn't always nice or easy, even when it seems that way on the exterior.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Style Council - "My Ever-Changing Moods"

Me Ever Changing Moods (Single  Single Edit) - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Style Council

(Debuted April 7, 1984, Peaked #29, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

The Style Council was formed out of the ashes of The Jam, who were wildly popular in the U.K. but never managed to chart on the U.S. single charts. After that group split in 1982, singer Paul Weller joined with Mick Talbot and continued with the duo through the rest of the 1980s. Like with The Jam, most of the successes of The Style Council came in their native country, but a couple of singles managed to chart on this side of the Atlantic as well.

The only Top 40 hit was "My Ever Changing Moods," but the success wasn't able to sustain itself. Weller broke up the band in 1989, claiming that passing time would show that their music was overlooked. To date, "My Ever Changing Moods" is Weller's highest-charting U.S. single, between his groups and solo work.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Alan Parsons Project - "Prime Time"

Prime Time - Ammonia Avenue (Bonus Track Version)

(Debuted May 19, 1984, Peaked #34, 11 Weeks on the Chart)

Today, I'm going to feature a song that is often overlooked in favor of bigger hits by the same band. While The Alan Parsons Project was often an acquired taste for listeners, there was a period when they were quite accessible to a wide pop audience. For many, songs like "Time," "Eye in the Sky" and "Don't Answer Me" represented their nadir, but there were a couple of other lesser hits that should have been just as big.

With "Prime Time," the group composed of Parsons and singer Eric Woolfson and whoever they happened to have playing in the studio enjoyed what eventually proved to be their last Top 40 hit. The song is every bit as sharp as "Don't Answer Me" (but without the retro feel of Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound"), but may have sounded too close to "Eye in the Sky" to sound like its own composition. That said, "Prime Time" exemplifies the studio perfection and craftsmanship Parsons tried to get into his songs. It really is a better single than its final chart position would indicate, and it's a shame that it has largely been forgotten by many.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Josie Cotton - "Jimmy Loves Maryann"

Jimmy Loves Maryann - From the Hip

(Debuted April 7, 1984, Peaked #52, 4 Weeks on the Chart)

In the 1980s, it seemed that nothing was quite so uncool as the 1970s. Disco was sneered at, the more intimate singer/songwriter material was disregarded in favor of power chords and "bigger" production. Synthesizers were there to replace the need for strings and brass. However, the occasional nugget from that much-maligned decade was tossed out to fans in the new one, and few complained when it happened.

I say that because I actually fell for that midset back then. In my own defense, I'll point out that I was young and quite impressionable. Around 1987, I grew tired of a lot of the material played on Top 40 stations and began looking through the old records of my parents, as well as those of my friends' older siblings. I began to find out that the era wasn't as bad as advertised...but I had to wait until the next decade before I could admit it in mixed company.

That brings us to Josie Cotton's second Hot 100 entry. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a remake of a 1973 Looking Glass hit that peaked at #33. It was likely familiar to those who grew up in the era, but enough time had passed that a new generation of listeners raised on MTV had little idea that it wasn't original. Of course, being done in a New Wave style (1984's version of New Wave, that is) didn't hurt either.

The song featured guitar work by Lindsey Buckingham, who was free because Fleetwood Mac was on a five-year hiatus at the time. However, his work is underrated on the track. As for Josie Cotton, the promise she showed with her first LP didn't hold up, and "Jimmy Loves Maryann" was her final chart single.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Eddie Rabbitt - "You Can't Run From Love"

You Can't Run from Love - Number One Hits

(Debuted April 23, 1983, Peaked #55, 8 Weeks on the Chart)

Eddie Rabbitt enjoyed tremendous crossover success in the late 1970s and early '80s, even scoring a #1 on both charts with the song "I Love a Rainy Night" (which also hit #1 on the adult contemporary chart). While best known as a country artist, his road to Nashville took a few turns that most casual fans might not have expected. For starters, Rabbitt was a Brooklyn native and grew up in New Jersey, neither of which are places that are known to produce many artists who lean toward country. His reason for ending up in Nashville was more common: he arrived as a songwriter. His first break was a big one, though, Elvis Presley's "Kentucky Rain." He worked his craft through the 1970s, eventually crossing over late in the decade.

However, by 1983 most country/pop crossover artists were on their way out taste-wise, including Rabbitt. While "You Can't Run From Love" would become his twelfth #1 country single and contained hooks that would have worked a couple of years earlier, it would break a string of nine Top 40 pop singles that went back to 1979. He never made it back.

Sadly, Eddie Rabbitt died in 1998 from lung cancer.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Stephen Bishop - "It Might Be You"

It Might Be You (Theme from Tootsie) - It Might Be You - EP

(Debuted January 29, 1983, Peaked #25, 20 Weeks on the Chart)

Stephen Bishop managed to score a few Top 40 hits. 1977's "On and On" was the highest-charting, but "Everybody Needs Love" and "Save it For a Rainy Day" also reached the survey. His final Top 40 hit came in 1983, with "It Might Be You," a sweet ballad whose #25 peak might surprise anybody who remembered just how often it played on adult-leaning radio stations. In fact, It managed to become his only #1 adult contemporary hit.

Bishop also showed up on John Landis films during his hitmaking years. He was in Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House and The Blues Brothers, usually billed as a variation of "Charming Guy." In fact, the cameo in Animal House was quite memorable, ending up with John Belushi smashing his guitar on the stairs. He later wrote music for movies as well.

While Stephen Bishop is well-known as a songwriter, it may surprise many to say that he didn't write "It Might Be You." As a theme from the Dustin Hoffman movie Tootsie, its lyrics were written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and the music was composed by Dave Grusin.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thomas Dolby - "She Blinded Me With Science"

She Blinded Me With Science - She Blinded Me With Science - Single

(Debuted February 19, 1983, Peaked #5, 22 Weeks on the Chart)

"She Blinded Me With Science" was the only Top 40 pop hit in the U.S. for Thomas Dolby, which glosses over the fact that he provided the distinctive synthesizer wash on Foreigner's #2 hit "Waiting For a Girl Like You" in 1981. He also worked on Foreigner's hit single "Urgent," as well as Lionel Richie's first two LPs. He also wrote Lene Lovich's New Wave classic (though not a Hot 100 hit) "New Toy." So Dolby wasn't exactly an unknown prior to his hit, at least not among other musicians.

Dolby was born Thomas Robinson in England, but when he started recording professionally there was already a singer named Tom Robinson in the U.K. As a result, he drew upon the nickname "Dolby," which his friends gave him as a teen for tinkering with sound equipment. Of course, the became a big issue with the Dolby Laboratories once he had a hit single, so the matter went through the legal system. Dolby (the company) was told it really couldn't restrict the name, while Dolby (the person) had to agree not to sell any electronics using the name.

One of the quirky things about "She Blinded Me With Science" was the "mad scientist" that yelled out "science!" several times throughout the song. Those were provided by Magnus Pyke, who was a British scientist and TV host. While the eccentric manner was part of his onscreen persona, it is said he was annoyed by people coming up to him after the hit and yelling out "science!" to him. He also appears in the video (shown below), which was a staple of MTV airplay in 1983.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Naked Eyes - "Always Something There to Remind Me"

Always Something There to Remind Me - Promises, Promises - The Very Best of Naked Eyes

(Debuted March 12, 1983, Peaked #8, 22 Weeks on the Chart)

"Always Something There to Remind Me" had a fairly long history before Naked Eyes recorded it, but since I wasn't around during the 1960s, I was too young to know that at the time. It was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it charted in the Hot 100 for Lou Johnson and Dionne Warwick but was a #1 hit in the U.K. for Sandie Shaw in 1964. It would eventually make the U.S. Top 40 when R.B. Greaves took it to #27 in 1970. However, the Shaw version was the one that Naked Eyes members Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher would know while growing up, and the one they used as a basis for recording it.

While it's the same song and the same lyrics, the electronic sound the duo used on their version was unique to the 1980s. The synthesizer made it possible to do things that no longer required a string section, and the result was something that sounded bigger. It also became the biggest-selling version of a song that has been recorded dozens of times. Growing up, I never realized it had a history; imagine how surprised I was to hear that it wasn't the classic New Wave original I thought it was when I was a kid.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Yaz - "Only You"

Only You - Upstairs At Eric's

(Debuted February 26, 1983, Peaked #67, 8 Weeks on the Chart)

Music fans in America often miss out on the best stuff from England. Take the song "Only You," for instance. It has a great melody and ranks with the best synth-pop of the 1980s. However, it took an entire year before it made the pop chart in the U.S. and wasn't widely heard at the time. Yet, 30 years later, Alison Moyet's understated vocal over the wash of synthesizers may be among the best performances of the decade.

If "Only You" sounds like it could have been done by Depeche Mode, there's good reason. Vince Clarke wrote it while he was still a member of that band, but it was passed over as a possible cut for them. Clarke was on his way out of the group at the time and cut it with his next project, a duo with Moyet he called Yazoo but shortened to Yaz in the U.S.

"Only You" was the first of only two chart singles they would have in the U.S. before they split up in 1983, but both members would return to the chart. Moyet would hit the Top 40 in 1985 as a solo artist, and Clarke would be one of the members of Erasure. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Lee Ritenour - "Cross My Heart"

Cross My Heart - Rit, Vol. 2

(Debuted December 4, 1982, Peaked #69, 4 Weeks on the Chart)

I featured Lee Ritenour's biggest hit during this blog's first month and explained in that post how much Ritenour influenced music simply by being a popular session musician of the era. Despite showing up in the liner notes on dozens of hit singles and LPs, he only managed two hits on the pop chart under his own name.

The second hit was "Cross My Heart," which featured Eric Tagg on vocals (he also sang the lyrics on "Is It You") and Ritenour's distinctive guitar in the instrumental bridge. As a single from the 1982 album Rit 2, it was actually given a more funk-driven and electronic arrangement than his first hit. At the same time, it was obviously well-crafted studio work and tilted heavily to the adult audience. However, it languished on the chart and fell off fairly quickly. That's a shame, as it deserved to get a better showing than it did.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kool & the Gang - "Get Down On It"

Get Down On It - Something Special

(Debuted February 27, 1982, Peaked #10, 17 Weeks on the Chart)

For those who say that Disco died in 1979, I usually point out that it really didn't die as much as it went underground. Kool & the Gang's "Get Down On it" is a case in point. While it's definitely more of a funk-based groove than the string-laden Disco, there's little doubt that the song would have been a decent hit if it had been released in the late 1970s. Released in 1982 -- just a couple of years beyond the Disco backlash -- a song about getting on the dance floor still managed to make the pop Top 10.

If you feel that Kool & the Gang wandered too far into the pop mainstream in the 1980s, "Get Down On it" is an example of where they're still letting it all hang out. While the main lyric of the song (a repetition of the title with occasional verses by J.T. Taylor tossed in) would sound like "filler" material in lesser hands, the funk groove underneath gives it a really big boost. In fact, if it doesn't brighten up your day, you might be dead.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Journey - "Still They Ride"

Still They Ride - Escape

(Debuted May 22, 1982, Peaked #19, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

Escape was the biggest album of Journey's career. While the band had been making music for a decade, they evolved from a freeform jam band (similar to Santana, which the founding members had left) into a rock/pop combo that was the epitome of the Arena rock sound. As the 1970s gave way to the 1980s, they were perfectly situated to capitalize on the changing of musical tastes.

In a sense, Escape was a perfect storm. It would go on to be the band's best-selling studio LP, currently certified as platinum nine times over. There were four songs from the album released as singles; all made the pop Top 40 and three were Top  10 smashes. Those of you who have read enough of my reviews know I tend to dig a little deeper into the charts and will focus on the one song that missed the Top 10.

"Still They Ride" was co-written by band members Steve Perry, Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon. Performed as a ballad, the song spotlights Perry's vocals as the song begins and raises the volume on the backing instruments as he makes his way through the lines. Of course -- this being the 1980s -- there's a standard Schon guitar solo in the instrumental bridge. The words are about the kids who used to drag race through the San Joaquin valley where Perry grew up (and where director George Lucas set American Graffiti), and the fact that the practice is still going on even as the kids eventually grow up and move on to other interests. In that sense, it's a song about being on the other side of that age difference.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

ABBA - "When All is Said and Done"

When All Is Said and Done - The Visitors (Bonus Tracks  Remastered)

(Debuted January 9, 1982, Peaked #27, 14 Weeks on the Chart)

ABBA enjoyed a phenomenal career in almost every country they targeted. Except the U.S.

Let me elaborate...yes, they had several big singles (including the #1 "Dancing Queen" in 1977), but their American success was dwarfed in comparison to what they did nearly everywhere else: all across Europe, in Australia, South Africa and even in Mexico, as they recorded several of their songs in Spanish for that market.

By 1982, the end was near. The band that once consisted of two married couples were now four divorced individuals who were ready to try new avenues. Indeed, the lyrics of "When All is Said and Done" were written as Benny Andersson and Frida Lyngstad, who was also the main vocalist on the song, were going through their divorce. Soon afterward, Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus were writing the music for the play Chess and Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog were both recording solo records. While ABBA never officially called it quits, they never recorded another album together.

As it turned out, "When All is Said and Done" would be their final Top 40 hit in the U.S. The title is fitting, even though it wasn't the plan to have it that way.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Waitresses - "I Know What Boys Like"

I Know What Boys Like - The Best of the Waitresses

(Debuted May 8, 1982, Peaked #62, 6 Weeks on the Chart)

The Waitresses were a New Wave-styled band from Akron, Ohio and "I Know What Boys Like" was the only song they charted on the Hot 100. While it was originally seen as little more than a novelty whose main hook was that the lines sounded a lot like a juvenile "nyah nyah nyah" chant (reflected in the lyrics), it has gone on to become a cult classic and one of those songs that is quintessentially from its era.

It even appeared in a number of the teenage "coming of age" comedies around the time (including The Last American Virgin, which I've mentioned in this blog a few times), which has undoubtedly helped it much better than its poor chart showing did.

The video (shown below) starts off with singer Patty Donahue taking a drag of a cigarette. She was a heavy smoker as an adult, and succumbed to lung cancer in 1996 at the age of 40.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Steve Carlisle - "WKRP in Cincinnati"

(Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted November 21, 1981, Peaked #65, 9 Weeks on the Chart)

Yes, they released a longer version of the opening theme to WKRP in Cincinnati as a single. Unfortunately, it failed to chart very high; some might say that was because the show -- which began airing in 1978 and was beginning its final season during the chart run -- had been on the air too long at the time and was too "familiar," but the song was actually released as a single in 1979. I'm not sure why it still took two years to reach the national chart, but it definitely deserved better than a #65 peak.

I used to work in the radio business, and WKRP was a great show because it actually "got" what was happening in the industry. Yes, the ensemble cast was great and well-chosen, but the radio-based topics were close to what was really going on (and I wasn't in the business until a decade after the show went off the air). The lyrics of the song basically told the story of Andy Travis (played by Gary Sandy), the fictional station's new program director tasked with turning it around.

Personally, I would have liked to see a single release of the song that played during the closing credits of the show. However, as a nonsensical tune that acknowledged that CBS was going to have an announcer "presell" the next show, it just wasn't meant for a 3-minute version.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Quincy Jones Featuring James Ingram - "Just Once"

Just Once - The Dude

(Debuted August 15, 1981, Peaked #17, 22 Weeks on the Chart)

This week (and all through this year), I'll make a mention of the film The Last American Virgin. While the film may have started off as little more than a standard 1980s comedy where high school buddies are devising ways of getting laid, at some point in the movie a real story broke out that made it a classic (at least, in my opinion). At the very end of the movie, the "good guy" basically gets his heart ripped out by the girl he was crazy about. As he heads off, he's crying; it isn't your standard "happily ever after" ending. Instead, it gives the movie a realism that makes it truly memorable.

And the song that was playing at the time of the not-quite-storybook ending was "Just Once." That alone places it in the pantheon of awesome 1980s movie music, but it really needs to be pointed out that the song itself is great without the visual help. Not only is it a great example of the music that Quincy Jones can come up with, but it boasts a powerful vocal from James Ingram that is just as heatbreaking as the end of the movie. That can't be said about all of the end-credit themes of the decade.

On its own, "Just Once" is a plea from a man for his on-again/off-again squeeze to try and break through the differences between them. While the relationship seems to be beset by a constant series of obstacles, this guy is certain that it can somehow work out. All he needs is just one more chance to prove it, even after all the other chances fell apart. For that reason, it was a perfect ending for The Last American Virgin; though the ending was about as subtle as a kick in the gut, you can be sure he'll still keep a light on for her in his heart despite what happened. Guys are really funny that way.

By the way...while James Ingram had some huge hits in the 1980s, but every one of them was in conjunction with another atrist (or, in the case of "We Are the World," a group of artists).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Commodores - "Oh No"

Oh No - The Commodores: Anthology

(Debuted September 26, 1981, Peaked #4, 19 Weeks on the Charts)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Last American Virgin, a film that I feel is sorely underrated because it tends to get tossed in with the other high school-set comedies of the era. Yes, much of the movie's first half deserves that fate, but the film's plot takes an unexpected (and more serious) detour later on that makes it much more memorable. It also has a very good soundtrack, including this song by The Commodres. Fittingly, a song called "Oh No" appears as the movie is getting ready to enter the more serious plotline.

"Oh No" is also notable as the last Commodores hit to reach the Top 40 while Lionel Richie was a member. The tender ballad hit the Top 5 on the pop, R&B and adult contemporary charts. The lyrics expressed dismay that the narrator was falling hopelessly in love, but the object of his affection wasn't all that interested in him. That showed some depth in Richie's songwriting, and was the perfect theme song to use for the love triangle-gone-wrong in The Last American Virgin.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Steely Dan - "Hey Nineteen"

Hey Nineteen - Gaucho

(Debuted November 29, 1980, Peaked #10, 18 Weeks on the Chart)

Steely Dan was always good for obtuse lyrics, and "Hey Nineteen" definitely fits the bill. Ostensibly about a younger girl being seduced by an older man (singer/songwriter Donald Fagen was in his 30s then), he's pointing out the fact that she isn't recognizing the things of his own youth -- she doesn't even recognize an Aretha Franklin song that's playing -- and realizing that he's no longer "with it," so to speak. However, having some tequila (Cuervo Gold) and a substance called "fine Columbian" can help bridge that age gap nicely. Being 1980, I'm fairly certain the Columbian product wasn't Juan Valdez's coffee beans.

Steely Dan was also known for using a wide range of studio musicians to achieve the best possible sound for the band's principal members, Fagen and Walter Becker. They do a great job on "Hey Nineteen," with its jazz-inspired sound that actually detracts from the "creepiness factor" that might actually be picked up by listeners (that's a good thing in this case). The backing singers, including Michael McDonald, add a smooth-sounding echo of the lyrics as the song heads toward its completion.

"Hey Nineteen" was the first single off the Gaucho LP. It was their first Top 10 single since 1974 (yes, none of Aja's three singles went that high on the chart), but the last one they would get. There was one more single before Steely Dan took a decade-and-a-half hiatus.