Saturday, December 31, 2016

Monkey by George Michael

2016 has not been a good year, if you judge years based on how many pop superstars died.  The last week of December brought the news that George Michael died on Christmas Day.  Though it has been a while since Mr. Michael hit the charts, his music still gets a fair amount of airplay, continuing to introduce him to a whole new generation and thereby making it that much more of a shock for so many when they heard of his death.

Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in 1963, George Michael  met a schoolmate named Andrew Ridgeley and discovered that they were both interested in music, which eventually led to the formation of Wham! and, after that, to worldwide success.  However, it wasn't long before it was clear that Mr. Michael was destined for a solo career.  The smash hit "Careless Whisper", though credited to Wham! in the United States, was actually a solo hit for George Michael, and less than two years later, Wham! was officially no more.

George Michael's first album, Faith, was phenominally successful, eventually becoming the biggest selling album of 1988 (even though it was released in 1987).  The controversy involving some radio stations refusing to play the album's leadoff single, "I Want Your Sex"*, only generated more publicity and once again proved that any press is good press.  The title track did even better, becoming the number one single for all of 1988.

(Faith spent 12 weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 Top Albums chart. Album ℗1987 Columbia Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)

Among the many topics and musical styles present on Faith was what Mr. Michael's official website** calls a "clattering drug abuse saga" with "funk" called "Monkey".

The fifth single from Faith, actually, is fairly different from the album version.  Instead, "Monkey" got a 7" version which was remixed by the very successful production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.  (Songfacts reports that Mr. Michael brought Jam and Lewis in after hearing their work on Janet Jackson's "Nasty".)

Almost certainly bolstered by the performance of Faith's previous singles, "Monkey" entered Billboard's Hot 100 all the way up at #42 the week ending July 9, 1988 (less than a week after its release date) and peaked at #1, where it spent two weeks, in its seventh week on the chart.  In all, it spent 16 weeks on the Hot 100 and sold well enough to be listed at #45 in Billboard's Year End Hot 100 of 1988.

As stated at the top, some of George Michael's music (especially "Careless Whisper", "Faith", and "Father Figure") still gets a good deal of airplay on classic hits stations (and, yes, "I Want Your Sex" also still gets the occasional spin).  "Monkey", however, appears to have disappeared from the radio landscape entirely.  You would think that a "Jack FM" or similar format could fit it in.



* The author can attest to this, as his hometown top 40 station temporarily considered not playing the track before letting their listeners vote on it.  The listeners voted to play it, and play it the station did.
** As of this writing (31 December 2016), Mr, Michael's website has a lot of detail about his music but has yet to acknowledge his death.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Money Don't Matter 2 Night by Prince and the New Power Generation

Three weeks after Prince's death, the news cycle is still abuzz with stories about it.  (Aside: 2016 has been really bad for music legends, and we're still only about one-third through the year.)  Even though his impact lessened quite a bit in recent years from its peak, there's not denying that he was a major influence in popular music.

With as many hits as he had, it's natural that some of his songs that hit the top 40 have been forgotten by radio.  After all, after smashes like "I Wanna Be Your Lover", "1999", "Kiss", and especially "When Doves Cry" (Billboard's number one song for 1984, and Prince's best-selling single ever), there's usually isn't much room in the typical classic hits station's playlist for other songs by the same artist.  And with a talent such as Prince's, that means that there are other songs which, for some other artist, would definitely be played, but which, for Prince, end up falling by the wayside.

Take, for example, Prince's output in the early 1990s.  By then, the New Power Generation was serving as his backup band, but Prince's sound was still distinctively his, and his songs were still charting just as well as ever.  His 1991 album, Diamonds and Pearls, yielded no fewer than four hits, including "Cream", Prince's final number-one single.  ("Cream" has also basically vanished from the radio, now that I think about it.)

(Diamonds and Pearls peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 Top Albums chart. Album ℗1991 Warner Bros. Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)

The final single released in the US from Diamonds and Pearls (it was either the fourth or fifth, depending on how you reckon it) was "Money Don't Matter 2 Night", a song with a social message (including a pretty overt anti-war sentiment).*  The song featured a very smooth sound and vocals with a distortion effect which, according to Wikipedia**, was not intentional but was apparently liked by Prince.  It entered Billboard's Hot 100 at #90 the week ending March 28, 1992 and peaked at #23 in its eighth week on the chart.  In all, it spent a decent 13 weeks on the Hot 100.

Prince's legacy has been underscored in the past couple of weeks by the reappearance of nine past hits of his on the Hot 100.  (See the May 14, 2016 chart for evidence.)  I would have loved to have seen more than nine reappear, including "Money Don't Matter 2 Night".  




* I have no intention to discuss the social messages in the song from a political standpoint.  I have/had another blog for that sort of thing, though I've pretty much burned out on politics.  Go figure.

** The veracity of anything in Wikipedia is always questionable; this particular fact was unsourced as of this writing.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The One You Love by Glenn Frey

Let's face it: 2016 has been a lousy year for classic hits.  First we lost David Bowie, and then soon afterward, we lost Glenn Frey.

Of course, just as with Mr. Bowie, Glenn Frey had too long and successful of a career for me to try to do it justice in one paragraph, so I won't.  The levels of success he enjoyed are obvious based on the number of Eagles songs still receiving airplay on both classic hits and classic rock stations, and a few classic hits stations still play one or two of his solo hits (mostly #2 hits "The Heat Is On" and "You Belong to the City", I would imagine).

But before those two songs shot up the charts, Mr. Frey had to start a solo career after having left the Eagles in 1980 and firing his manager, Irving Azoff (who had been the Eagles' manager).  However, one thing had changed when he transitioned from a member of a group to a solo artist.  As fan site Glenn Frey Online states:  "it was evident that the joy in his work had returned."

Along with that newly found joy came Mr. Frey's first album, No Fun Aloud, released in May 1982.  While it wasn't nearly as successful as the last several Eagles albums before Mr. Frey left the group, the album did sell fairly well, earning a gold certification.

(No Fun Aloud peaked at #32 on Billboard's Top LPs and Tape chart. Album ℗1982 Asylum Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)


The first single from the album, "I Found Somebody", peaked at #31, but the second single released, "The One You Love", a song about a woman torn between two lovers*, performed better.  The video for the song appears to put Mr. Frey into the role of the one who loves her, rather than that of the one she loves, and it seems to show that his character ended the song as the odd man out.

"The One You Love" entered the charts at #87 for the week ending August 21, 1982 (chart), just as "I Found Somebody" was falling out of the top 40.  It peaked at #15 the week ending November 6 (chart).  Its 17th and final week on the Hot 100 was the week ending December 11 (chart).  It performed even better on the Adult Contemporary chart, peaking at #2.

I am glad that radio stations still play Eagles songs quite a bit, but it would be nice to see a few more songs from Glenn Frey getting spins as well.  This one definitely deserves some.



* Whether or not she was feeling like a fool is left to be determined by the listener.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Blue Jean by David Bowie

Like many of my readers, I am guessing, I was shocked to hear of the passing of David Bowie earlier this month.  I had had no idea he was even battling cancer.

I'm not going to attempt to write up his long and successful career in this space.  There are lots of other places on the net which have done so, and almost certainly better than I could have done it.   Instead, let's pick up in 1984.  Mr. Bowie was flying high, helped by the success of the platinum Let's Dance the year before.  And then, according to Ultimate Classic Rock:

Concerned that he’d lose his expanded pop audience if he didn’t return with a new album quickly, he rushed out Tonight in the fall of ’84. Bowie later admitted that he hadn't had enough time to get an LP’s worth of material together.

Still, fans were happy with a new Bowie album, and sales earned it a platinum certification, so perhaps it wasn't quite as bad as its reputation now appears to be.


(Tonight peaked at #11 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart. Album ℗1984 Virgin Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)

While the album was apparently a disappointment to some, including Mr. Bowie himself, the first single from Tonight, "Blue Jean", performed rather well on the charts for a song that Mr. Bowie once described as follows (from a 1987 interview as quoted by--sorry--Wikipedia):

"'Blue Jean' is a piece of sexist rock 'n roll. [laughs] It's about picking up birds. It's not very cerebral, that piece."

Not cerebral, but it had a good beat, and you could dance to it.  And in 1984, perhaps that was just what the listening public wanted.

"Blue Jean" entered Billboard's Hot 100 the week ending September 15, 1984* and peaked at #8 seven weeks later.  It had a good run on the charts, lasting 18 weeks on the Hot 100.  It apparently just missed Billboard's Hot 100 of 1984, though, interestingly, it charted at #88 on American Top 40's top 100 of that year.**

Personally, I have not heard "Blue Jean" on the radio probably since it fell off the charts in early 1985.  I've heard a number of other David Bowie songs on the radio more recently, which is a good thing, but it would be nice for "Blue Jean" to join that number.





* Google's archive of old Billboard magazines does not include this issue at present.

** While American Top 40 used the Billboard Hot 100 as its exclusive source until November 1991, it did not always use Billboard's Hot 100 for its year-end countdowns for some reason. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Find Another Fool by Quarterflash

It seems like an unlikely start for a band, but Quarterflash got its start when a couple of teaching students met and fell in love.  Marv and Rindy Ross were a good foundation for the bands in which they played; Marv played guitar, and Rindy sang and, for good measure, also played saxophone.  And so they formed a band and gave it a name few people would forget:  Seafood Mama.

Thankfully, the name "Seafood Mama" didn't last once that band and another band merged, and instead they settled on "Quarterflash".  Quarterflash's own bio page doesn't explain the origin of the name, but this archived page at Classic Rock Revisited explains it:

The group’s producer had just returned from Australia and pulled out a book he brought back that listed Australian and New Zealand phrases. When the group came across the phrase Quarterflash, which Australians used to describe newcomers to their land as one-quarter flash and three-parts foolish, the search was over.

After getting a record deal, Quarterflash didn't have to wait too long for its first taste of success, as its first single, a re-recorded version of a Seafood Mama song, "Harden My Heart", shot right up to #3 on Billboard's Hot 100.  The group's eponymous debut album rode the success of "Harden My Heart".

(Quarterflash peaked at #8 on Billboard's Hot LPs and Tape chart. Album ℗1981 Geffen Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)

Ask most people about Quarterflash now, and they would probably tell you that the band's story began and ended with "Harden My Heart".  Except, of course, that it didn't happen that way.

As might be expected, the success of the first single meant that there would have to be a second single.  "Find Another Fool" was released in early 1982 and had a very similar subject matter to that of  "Harden My Heart"--that of a failed relationship--though "Find Another Fool" was a little harder-rocking.  And it, too, made a good showing on the charts, though not quite as good as its predecessor.  "Find Another Fool" entered the Hot 100 at #87 for the week ending February 13, 1982 (the same week that "Harden My Heart" hit its peak); it peaked at #16 for the week ending April 17 before exiting the Hot 100 a month later, after 13 weeks on the chart.

Quarterflash continued to record for a few more years, even hitting the Top 20 one more time.  However, tastes were changing, and Quarterflash found diminishing returns on their albums.  The group broke up in 1985 after Geffen dropped them, though Marv and Rindy Ross, still married over 30 years later, have released new material in the 21st century under the Quarterflash name.  The Rosses can still be found playing the occasional venue, mostly in Oregon.

Of course, "Harden My Heart" still gets a good amount of airplay on radio today.  Unfortunately, radio has forgotten "Find Another Fool" completely.



Saturday, November 7, 2015

On The Loose by Saga

Those of my readers who have a good memory of the early 80s may remember a group called Saga.  Originally called Pockets, this Canadian progressive rock band had several charting songs in their native country.  The song for which they are probably most remembered, though, never charted in Canada.

Like The Kings, another Canadian one-hit wonder spotlighted on this blog somewhat recently, Saga has a quite functional website.  Unlike The Kings, however, Saga's website does not include its own biography section, instead linking directly to the band's page on the oft-maligned and not always accurate Wikipedia.

For the band's fourth album, Worlds Apart, Saga chose British producer Rupert Hine, and together Mr. Hine and Saga put together the band's most successful album.  "On the Loose", the band's most successful single, was probably helped a good deal by extensive airplay on the fairly new (at the time) MTV.

(Worlds Apart peaked at #29 on Billboard's Hot LPs and Tape chart. Album ℗1981 Portrait Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)

Though Worlds Apart was released in early 1981, "On the Loose" did not enter Billboard's Hot 100 until it debuted at #86 for the week ending December 4, 1982.  Its climb up the charts was relatively slow next to a lot of the chart-toppers of the time; it finally peaked at #26 for the week ending February 26, 1983.  Its descent was much quicker, as it dropped off the Hot 100 in early April after a total of 18 weeks.  The band hit the charts twice more in 1983 before disappearing from the Hot 100 entirely.

Over 30 years later, Saga is still releasing albums, which continue to chart well not in Saga's native Canada but in Germany, and they are still touring in Germany, Canada, and other places (and per the band's website, selling out most of their venues), but they have become largely forgotten in American classic rock radio, though very occasionally "On the Loose" will get airplay to remind people of their desires to escape and break free.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Turn It On Again by Genesis

In the late 80s and early 90s, it could be argued that Genesis was one of the most popular bands around.  (Obviously, others--U2, for example--could make similar claims.)  I could list multiple hits from Genesis that still get lots of radio airplay even today.  (I could also list several songs from that period that could qualify for this blog, but those would require me to update this blog a lot more often than I currently do.*)

In the late 70s and early 80s, though, Genesis was still an up-and-coming band, at least as far as Billboard's Hot 100 chart was concerned.  After over ten years' worth of recordings, the band finally cracked the top 40 with "Follow You Follow Me", which made it to #23 in 1978.  Two years later, "Misunderstanding" climbed even higher, hitting #14.  Both of those two songs still get airplay.  The next single from their album Duke, however, "Turn It On Again", hasn't fared as well on radio.

Now, admittedly, "Turn It On Again", a song about someone whose life revolves around his TV, is not a normal song, as pop radio goes.  A good portion of the song is in the very uncommon 13/8 time signature.  This, however, didn't stop it from cracking the Hot 100.

(Duke peaked at #11 on Billboard's Hot LPs and Tape chart. Album ℗1980 Atlantic Records.  Photo courtesy Amazon.com.)

"Turn In On Again" entered Billboard's Hot 100 at #84 for the week ending September 6, 1980.  One month later (the week ending October 4), it peaked at #58, and one month after that, it had dropped back off the chart, having spent a total of eight weeks on.

Now, while I haven't heard this song on the radio in a long time, it is true that it was fairly popular on classic rock stations for many years after its release.  And, it is also true that the song is popular enough with Genesis fans that it was played on many of the group's tours; in fact, one of the band's greatest hits compilations took the name of the song for itself.  However, with all that said, I would love to hear an actual radio station playing it again.


* I will point out that I did post on this blog's Facebook page (on which you should click "like" right now) that my computer was having technical difficulties, which, as it turned out, amounted to a rogue program that wouldn't let Blogger load.  It has since been removed.