|Posted by powerpopclassics on September 19, 2014 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
The American Top 40 Countdown of September 23, 1990 was basically a reshuffling of the MTV playlist of the day. By 1990 there were few, if any, “accidental” or “unplanned” hit records developing chart lives of their own through radio DJ initiated activity. Every MTV-ready video was a small scale movie-like event. The video-based promotion surrounding the release of every new major label single was scheduled and choreographed in a corporate boardroom, every bit as much as the moves on sound stages that accompanied (and sold) these singles. Perhaps, instead of singles, we should term these events “cheerleader-inspired dance routine videos set to extremely forgettable synthetic tracks.” What really is amazing is that millions of us snapped up cassingles of songs that a handful of corporations decided we'd like.
With such a manufactured outlook, one might expect this chart to be the worst of all time. But, miraculously, it’s not. Several bright spots emerge from the sludge. In spite of the boardroom’s aversion to singable songs, two truly melodic compositions bookend the 40, in the form of “Release Me” by Wilson Phillips at #1 and “Time For Letting Go” by Jude Cole at #40. Of course, as we all know, exercises in catchy melody were everyday business for both of the Wilson Phillips dads back in the day. Similarly, and on a more underground scale, Jude Cole’s former cohorts, Moon Martin and The Records, were responsible for some first rate songwriting a little later.
In between #1 and #40, pre-alternative Modern Rock was represented by acts such as INXS at #33 with “Suicide Blonde.” Faith No More capitalized on “Epic” at #27, while Depeche Mode’s #21 hit “Policy of Truth” was, honestly, one of the best songs of the year. Former power poppers Cheap Trick stepped further into Hair Metal territory with “Can’t Stop Falling Into Love” at #12. Pure Hair Metal glittered onward with Slaughter’s “Fly To The Angels” at #36; Poison’s fat swelling overdubbed harmonies on “Unskinny Bop” infected the chart at #10; and Jon Bon Jovi, still with Hair Metal hair, but without the full band, fired off his “Blaze Of Glory” at #2.
In addition to the aforementioned “Fly To The Angels” by Slaughter, several other acts preached their way into the 40, with titles that sounded religious. At #8, George Michael brought forth “Praying For Time,” a prayer that was answered for George in an unexpected way several years later. Phil Collins’ #7 entry “Something Happened On The Way To Heaven” had nothing to do with heaven, but it did, at least, mention the title (barely) in the lyrics. Prince warned us about “Thieves in the Temple” at #6, while Breathe’s “Say a Prayer” seemed like good advice, primarily as the only remaining way to fix the music industry.
One unexpected surprise in the fall of 1990 was the resurgence of the Chi-Lites, a smooth Chicago-based soul group that hit it big in the 70’s with “Oh Girl” and “Have You Seen Her.” Oddly enough, both of those songs were on this chart in the form of remakes, thereby bringing some deserved belated attention to the Chi-Lites. M.C. Hammer was recklessly banking his way to #9 with his cover of “Have You Seen Her” and Paul Young was looking for love at #11 with his British soul spin on “Oh Girl.”
Divas were responsible for a lot of Pop/Soul that week. Janet Jackson had 2 entries, “Black Cat” at #32 and “Come Back To Me” at #30. Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love” saw its way up to #20. Pebbles and Taylor Dayne both “Junior-diva’d” their way onto the chart, and Lisa Stansfield’s “This Is The Right Time” was taking her all around the world. Boys? Yes, the Boy Band genre was represented with a group I can’t even remember, actually called the Boys at #34 with “Crazy.” New Kids On The Block, who I do vaguely remember, were hangin’ tough at #22 with “Tonight.” Bel Biv Devoe did #3 with “Do Me,” and Johnny Gill (of New Edition) possessed #13 with “My My My.”
Then there are the true dregs of this chart, the forgettable synthetic stuff. The Adventures of Stevie B? Kyper? After 7? Sweet Sensation? Maybe these artists released good songs, but I sure can’t remember them. I have a mild memory of “Everybody Everybody” by Black Box, but it’s off in a dark corner, possibly not even the right song. And then there is Vanilla Ice with “Ice Ice Baby.” Many, many, many people would vote this song off the chart, but, really, I like Bowie & Queen’s “Under Pressure” riff, which at least makes one part of the song memorable. Besides, there is a pure and absolute DUD which deserves the boot even more.
So, if Vanilla Ice is allowed to stay, what on earth could possibly be worse?
"Romeo" by Dino. The name Romeo. Yes, as in William Shakespeare. Wherefore art Shakespeare's vomit rags? If you remember this song, you are instantly thinking, "OUCH!" If you don't remember it, your life is all the better for your lack of contact with it. This song is, without doubt, the worst song on this chart, and that is really saying something. The ONLY "not terrible" part of the song is the rap by Dr. Ice, which, really isn't good. But it's better than EVERYTHING that Dino does. Of course, in the video age, it's impossible to separate the video from the song, and the video is absolutely terrible too. Not low budget terrible, though. It is high budget terrible, complete with misuse of a drop down Elvis microphone, dancers that are two years behind Paula Abdul, and worst of all, some sort of combination dreadlock-mullet hairstyle on Dino. I'm certainly not going to link the video here, but if you really want to punish yourself, search for it on YouTube. Again, somebody, in some record company boardroom, literally had to think this whole song and dance was actually good. Wow. It's not. IT MUST GO!
With "Romeo" out of the way, what SHOULD have been at #17 that week? Well, on this particular week, what this chart needed was a song by none other than...THE COWSILLS! That's right, The Cowsills. That same groovy real-life family band that The Partridge Family was modeled after? Yes. That same group that couldn't get any respect during their chart run from '67-'69? Yes. That band, and yes, I do mean BAND (not just group) that had a #2 hit with the title song from HAIR, only because a huge radio station's tastemaker jock lost a bet with a record company promoter who provided a record with no label, and made the DJ promise heavy rotation for the record if he couldn't name the artist in three tries? Yes. Yes. Yes. And the song by The Cowsills from 1990 that SHOULD have been on the chart in Dino's place was called "Is It Any Wonder?" This song has everything. Perfect guitar sound. Fantastic harmonies. Great lyrics. Most of all, though, it is MELODIC. It has emotion. It is real. It really is a wonder that The Cowsills had, at this point in 1990, the most respectable pop/rock song in the entire music business. It didn't chart simply because nobody in any boardroom decided to make it chart.
Now, to extract and replace? Or not to extract and replace? There is NO QUESTION...
OUT: "ROMEO" - DINO
IN: "IS IT ANY WONDER?" - THE COWSILLS
|Posted by powerpopclassics on September 12, 2014 at 3:40 PM||comments (0)|
The Billboard chart of September 17, 1977 contained a little bit of everything. A mere month and a day prior to this particular chart being published, Elvis Presley died. And here, a month later, Elvis was still in the building with “Way Down” at #21, while Ronnie McDowell, the first in a never-ending breed of Elvis impersonators, became the only known Elvis impersonator to join the real Elvis in a Top 40 countdown by taking “The King Is Gone” to #40.
Soft rock was well represented, with Firefall’s “Just Remember I Love You” (#37) and Stephen Bishop’s “On And On.” (#15) The summer harmonies of Crosby, Stills & Nash were docked at #22 with their not-yet-classic “Just A Song Before I Go” and Fleetwood Mac kept going at #5 with “Don’t Stop.” On the harder side of rock, Heart trolled up to #25 with “Barracuda,” while the tropical sound effects in Steve Miller’s #26 entry “Jungle Love” were driving us mad, making us crazy. Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” clawed its way to #34, and Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” was hot at #12.
Disco was gaining momentum, with Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” logging one of its 4 weeks at #1. Other future disco classics on the chart included “Keep It Comin’ Love” by K.C. & the Sunshine Band at #6, Heatwave’s “Boogie Nights” at #18, and the world’s first BPM/EDM song at #23, “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer. Not all of that week’s disco entries were future disco classics, or even “good…for disco.” Exhibit A? Paul Nicholas at #33 with “Heaven On The Seventh Floor,” a song that would likely be extracted from existence on most charts, barring a truly vile musical event, such as the one we will soon discuss.
With the peak of the disco phenomenon still three months away (the release date of the motion picture “Saturday Night Fever” was December 16, 1977) the remarkable aspect of this chart was the predominance of COVER SONGS. They are everywhere! At #4, there is James Taylor with his cover of Jimmy Jones’ “Handy Man” from 1960. Rita Coolidge, with a little help from Booker T., ultimately lifted the 1967 Jackie Wilson hit “Higher and Higher” up to #2, but was at #11 this particular week. At #13, arranger Meco Monardo’s cover of John Williams’ “Star Wars Theme” ultimately hit the top and outperformed the composer’s own London Symphony Orchestra version. Shaun Cassidy teeny-bopped Eric Carmen’s European hit “That’s Rock and Roll” (#14), Johnny Rivers updated the Funky Kings’ “Slow Dancing (Swaying To The Music)” (#16) and Peter Frampton showed us the way he played Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” (#27).
A new entry that week, at #35, was Debby Boone’s cover version of the previously recorded “You Light Up My Life.” Several weeks later, it would begin its historic 10 week run at #1. On this particular week, though, it was simply a cover of a Joe Brooks composition, originally recorded by Kasey Cisyk for a now-forgotten movie with the same title as the song. At #31 was George Benson’s version of Michael Masser and Linda Creed’s “The Greatest Love of All,” a song which was later covered with enormous success by Whitney Houston. And, finally, appearing at #19 is “Don’t Worry Baby” by B.J. Thomas, one of the two Beach Boy classics on this chart full of covers. While B.J.’s recording doesn’t compare to the original, its “older” tilt to the lyric certainly makes it listenable, and even sometimes enjoyable.
THE OTHER BEACH BOY COVER IS A COMPLETE DISASTER. PERIOD.
At #39…”Surfin’ U.S.A.” by Leif Garrett.
Do I really need to make an argument here? Leif Garrett? “Surfin’ U.S.A.?” Leif may have been made for dancing, but he certainly was not made to record this one-of-a-kind collaboration between Chuck Berry and Brian Wilson. If you have had the unfortunate experience of actually hearing this recording, you will understand why surfers were vomiting all over La Jolla to Waimea Bay. IT MUST GO. GONE.
So, what should have crept its way into the Top 40 in place of the above-referenced catastrophe? Once again, we have an easy replacement to make. Only a couple of weeks prior to this chart, The Babys released their second album, BROKEN HEART. The lead-off track to this excellent album was “Wrong Or Right,” a song carried by lead vocalist John Waite’s distinct vocal. Tony Brock’s drumming counters some very well-scored classical strings in an infant-sized “Bach meets Bonham” moment. While the personalities in the Babys shortened the band’s chart life, that chart life should have begun with this embryonic near-masterpiece. Yes, a couple of months later, the equally symphonic and piano-driven “Isn’t It Time” would give birth to a Babys-breakthrough. However, “Wrong Or Right” SHOULD have been released first, and had it been snuggled up at #39 on this chart, it would have brought some credibility to this particular week’s Top 40.
So, let's RIGHT THIS WRONG!
OUT: "SURFIN' U.S.A." - LEIF GARRETT
IN: "WRONG OR RIGHT" - THE BABYS
|Posted by powerpopclassics on September 5, 2014 at 3:55 PM||comments (0)|
By September 6, 1980, disco’s chart domination had cooled significantly, yet the Chic sound lived on as that week’s Number One song was “Upside Down” by Diana Ross. This record was VERY OBVIOUSLY written and produced by Chic’s Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. Obviously. A little further down the list, at #23, Queen’s soon-to-hit-the-top “Another One Bites The Dust” featured guitarist Brian May discarding his customary multi-tracking, instead opting to cop Nile’s rhythm dinks from “Good Times.” There were no Chic songs in the Top 40 that week, but it sure sounded like it.
Other disco singles from the week included the out-of-nowhere hit at #8, “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” by the S.O.S. Band, and the Grammy-winning “Never Knew Love Like This Before” by Stephanie Mills at #30. George Benson’s entry at #7, “Give Me The Night,” was written by Heatwave’s Rod Temperton and produced by Quincy Jones. Because of Benson’s name and guitar, it didn’t feel like pure disco, even though its tempo, beat and chorus prove otherwise.
Looking at the chart’s rock acts, the Rolling Stones were tolerating Mick’s falsetto at #3 with the disco-ish “Emotional Rescue,” although no FM rock stations played it. FM jocks decided, almost unanimously, to instead give spins to the Stones’ album track “She’s So Cold.” Billy Joel had two entries that week, “Don’t Ask Me Why” at #24, and “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” at #15. Both have aged rather well. Jackson Browne’s “Boulevard” had a decent hook at #19, but was not anywhere near his best work. And, at #36, the Dirt Band’s country-rock single “Make A Little Magic” was getting played primarily because of the guest vocals of the beautiful and talented Nicolette Larson.
With disco in retreat, and album rock stuck in a rut, one category surged ahead. SOUNDTRACKS WERE HOT! Movie songs can be found everywhere on this chart. From CADDYSHACK, Kenny Loggins offered up “I’m Alright.” Eddie Rabbitt’s “Driving My Life Away” was featured in ROADIE, which, if you remember, starred Meat Loaf! Paul Simon’s concept album and concurrent feature film ONE TRICK PONY produced the unique single “Late In The Evening.” URBAN COWBOY was responsible for “Looking For Love” by Johnny Lee and one of the two Boz Skaggs tunes on the chart, “Look What You’ve Done To Me.” The other Boz tune was the non-movie thumper “Jojo.” And, Irene Cara was as hot as summer at #5 (and sounding a lot like Donna Summer) with the theme song from FAME, another eventual chart topper.
One other soundtrack album, in fact, was responsible for three songs in the Top 40 this very week. No, not Saturday Night Fever. Not Grease. Give up? Remember the movie XANADU? Believe it or not, and, sadly enough, that’s the one. Two of the songs from that soundtrack, “All Over The World” by ELO (#21) and “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John (#6), can best be categorized as “generally bad” music. And, on most Top 40 countdowns, there are some “generally bad” songs whose presence may be questioned, but, overall, were not bad enough to be extracted from existence. However, when, as a part of the XANADU soundtrack, Olivia Newton-John and ELO teamed up for the title track, extreme measures must be taken!
Think about that for a minute. “Xanudu” paired Olivia Newton-John with ELO. Basically, Olivia and Jeff Lynne. Really? Olivia Newton-John and Jeff Lynne? The same Jeff Lynne that came up with that killer production on the cover of “Roll Over Beethoven” for ELO? The same Jeff Lynne that would later produce The Beatles’ quasi-reunion? The guy that partnered with Beatle George, Dylan, Orbison and Petty to form the super-est of supergroups? Wilbury Jeff? YES. THAT JEFF LYNNE.
Of course, looking at photos of Olivia from that era, she probably could have talked ANY Wilbury into anything…especially Jeff. But, really, Olivia Newton-John was best paired with John Travolta. Cliff Richard. Even Andy Gibb. As couples, those duet partners LOOKED like good-looking, popular people that belonged together. But Jeff Lynne? ELO? Can you honestly imagine Olivia duetting with Jeff Lynne on “Do Ya?” She sounded more at home on John Denver’s “Fly Away” a few years earlier.
I don’t know. Maybe Olivia and Jeff had a lot to talk about. I wasn’t there. Maybe Jeff WASN’T, in fact, smitten by her smile, and was instead impressed that (her first hit) “If Not For You” was written by one future Wilbury (Dylan), and previously covered by another (Harrison). Whatever the story, though, IT CAN’T SAVE THE SONG! IT MUST GO!
So, what SHOULD have been listed at #26 instead of Olivia and Jeff’s “Xanadu?” To me, it is a no-brainer: “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide” by the Kings deserved that spot. It has certainly outlasted many of the songs on this very chart, to the degree that it seems hard to believe that Casey Kasem never played it on American Top 40. In fact, I had to spend a little extra time double-checking some chart information from this time period to confirm its status as never having made the Top 40.
What DID “Switchin’ To Glide” do? Well, it stayed in the lower rungs of the charts for more than five months. That’s a long time. Most impressively, during its 22nd week, while lodged at #87, The Kings appeared on American Bandstand to “perform” the song! (Not the usual chart positioning of Dick Clark’s carefully selected musical acts, as I recall.)
If you live near a terrestrial radio station that has “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide” permanently programmed to play between “Working For The Weekend” by Loverboy and “Bang On The Drum All Day” by Rundgren every Friday at 5:04, then, later today, let yourself appreciate the sound of this production, complete with the perfect mix of vintage organ and progressive (for the time) synthesizer. Then, as the lyrics sink in, you will realize that, prior to “Switchin’ To Glide,” you NEVER heard anybody anywhere say, “Nothin’ matters but the weekend, from a Tuesday point of view!”
Don’t want to wait until the customary Friday drive-time play-out? Click on this link to see what it was like when the Kings were here:
Let's mobilize some laughs and agree...
OUT: "XANADU" - OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN AND ELO
IN: "THIS BEAT GOES ON/SWITCHIN' TO GLIDE" - THE KINGS
|Posted by powerpopclassics on August 26, 2014 at 6:20 PM||comments (0)|
After I took a quick glance at the Billboard chart of August 26, 1972, it was instantly obvious that this was one of the best Top 40's in all of radio history. This particular week was loaded with songs that many of us associate with summer. Almost as if this batch of hits from the AM days is a near perfect 70's summer playlist, so varied in content that it is hard to believe that all of these records were hits at the same time.
While I can’t say that I personally like all of these songs, I have to acknowledge their significance. Take a look at these bona fide 70’s on 7 classics:
"Long Cool Woman" - by CCR...uh, I mean, The Hollies; "Hold Your Head Up" – Argent; The then-current novelty hit "Popcorn" by Hot Butter, a synthesizer workout that foretold the future of pop music; The amazingly catchy "Go All The Way" by The Raspberries, which, on its own makes this one of MY favorite Top 40's ever.
There was also the smooth soul of "Too Late To Turn Back Now" by the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose. The enduring classic, "Lean On Me" is there, along with the Memphis sounds of the Staple Singers and Al Green representing Stax and Hi Records, respectively. There is even more Memphis soul with Luther Ingram’s “If Loving You Is Wrong.” And, not to be denied, Philly soul smiles in the listener’s face in the form of “Back Stabbers” by the O’Jays.
Elton John was in the early stages of his historic chart run with "Honky Cat" and Three Dog Night was still hot as their "Black And White" was just a couple of weeks away from hitting #1. “Goodbye To Love” by the Carpenters (featuring a blistering guitar solo by David Spinozza) was sitting as pretty as Karen’s voice at #7, while the other great voice of the era, Nilsson, was living out a little of his own future with the one-chorded classic, “Coconut.”
So what needs to be corrected from a chart this good?
At first glance, almost any rock fan will be tempted to give the boot to "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast" by Wayne Newton. True, it really has no place alongside Argent, "School's Out" by Alice, or even "Saturday In The Park" by Chicago.
But, as one looks a little closer to this chart, it is as if an entry from a completely different era has been mistakenly included in a 1972 Top 40. It simply doesn’t fit, and EVEN MORE THAN WAYNE NEWTON, IT DOESN’T BELONG! (And that's saying something!) What is it?
"Sealed With A Kiss" by Bobby Vinton! There, I've said it. And I will say it one more time, just in case you skipped over it.
THIS AMAZING TOP 40 INEXCUSABLY CONTAINED “SEALED WITH A KISS” BY BOBBY VINTON!
Yes, I know that this was a Brian Hyland cover, and cover songs often are given oddball chart lives. But Bobby Vinton? I mean, David Cassidy covered “Cherish” somewhere in there and Donny Osmond did “Go Away Little Girl.” Those can (sort of) be overlooked because radio had to program something for the girls in second grade. BUT BOBBY VINTON? Sorry, Bobby, you have to go. You simply can’t be on a chart this good. And, if you’re feeling like “Mr. Lonely” for getting the boot, don’t worry. I’m certain this chart will be visited again, and Wayne Newton will, at that time, join you in “Chart Correction Purgatory.”
So, what SHOULD have been perched at #19 instead of “Sealed With A Kiss?” Well, it is almost becoming a cliché these days to talk about Big Star, but I’m going to anyway. At this point, with the strength of the Memphis labels hitting at full steam ON THIS VERY CHART, Big Star’s “Watch The Sunrise” needed to have been #19. Sure, it is a song that was never given a proper release as a single. Its predecessor, “When My Baby’s Beside Me” did not even dent the 40. However, had it run its existing “non-charted” life, then this very moving acoustic gem would have had the right number of weeks to lodge itself into Bobby’s vacated slot.
Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGvqShrbGv4
I’m sure you will close your eyes and agree…
OUT: "SEALED WITH A KISS" - BOBBY VINTON
IN: "WATCH THE SUNRISE" - BIG STAR
|Posted by powerpopclassics on August 22, 2014 at 4:50 PM||comments (0)|
Exactly thirty-three years ago today, Billboard Magazine published what became one of the worst episodes of American Top 40 EVER! This particular chart was littered with Commerce Rock, Country Pud, and Failed Bubblegum. In general, this group of songs was a dying bouquet of dull. Limiting that week's "Chart Correction" to just one song is proving to be mind-boggling. #3? "I Don't Need You" by Kenny Rogers. Ouch. #13? "Elvira" by the Oak Ridge Boys! #23? "Step By Step" by Eddie Rabbitt! These are three almost obvious candidates for chart correction. However, slightly more deserving for extraction is the worst song ever recorded by the Carpenters, "Touch Me When We're Dancing." Even more repulsive than that, though, is John Schneider's one and only Top 40 hit, "It's Now Or Never!"
Can this chart be real?
Yes. And, it gets worse! In fact, there was the "Everlasting Love" cover by Rex Smith and Rachel Sweet. There was a terrible song by Ray Parker, Jr. & Raydio, but I can't even remember it's name. And, very unfortunately, there was something by the Beach Boys on that chart called "The Beach Boys Medley." Eeeek. Air Supply was represented, as was Alabama. Not a good week at all.
Of all those disasters, though, which song simply MUST BE EXTRACTED AND REPLACED?
Well, none of the above. The correction that this chart needs the most starts with removing "BOY FROM NEW YORK CITY" by MANHATTAN TRANSFER. It must go. It cannot remain. It simply out-repulses all of those other deserving candidates elsewhere on the chart.
So, what needs to replace "Boy From New York City?" How about a current song from that era, released on an album only a few weeks before, by four almost famous and deserving boys from New York City, The Ramones? That's right, The Ramones. They SHOULD have been on the chart that week, IF they hadn't goofed and released "We Want The Airwaves" as the first single off of the excellent PLEASANT DREAMS album. The song they SHOULD have released first was "Sitting In My Room." It is classic Ramones, complete with a simple riff, perfect drums, a Joey snarl, and even a reference to some sort of activity involving glue. This song would have fit nicely with the few decent songs on the August 22, 1981 Top 40, such as "The Breakup Song" by Greg Kihn, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" by Stevie and Petty, and "Time" by Alan Parsons. If you don't remember this particular Ramones gem, check it out:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdYLxvO8BWU
Now, I'm sure you agree with me...
OUT: BOY FROM NEW YORK CITY - MANHATTAN TRANSFER
IN: SITTING IN MY ROOM - RAMONES
|Posted by powerpopclassics on||comments (0)|
Exactly 44 years ago, October 28, 1972, "From The Beginning" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer peaked at #39. Not bad, but this gem deserved much better. Compounding the problem is that Chuck Berry was at #1 that week with his WORST song, "My Ding-A-Ling." INCREDIBLY, Elvis Presley's "Burning Love" was blocked at #2 by Chuck Berry's sub-standard novelty record. Luckily, we are here to help. Chuck, we will trade you some better chart positions during the late '50's and early '60's for a #39 peak for your novelty song. Elvis, since you rallied and knocked out a near classic, you go to #1. ELP, instead of a #39 peak, you are now lodged at #2. Breathe easy now. You are welcome, music lovers!