Deadlines and commitments – what to leave in, what to leave out.
890. “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” Cliff Richard. Songwriter: Alan Tarney; #7 pop; released in 1979, peaked on U.S. charts in 1980. Cliff Richard’s track record of being one of the U.K.’s biggest pop stars didn’t translate into great U.S. success. He did have a few U.S. Top 40 hits, going all the way back to 1959’s “Living Doll,” before having a Top Ten single in 1976 with “Devil Woman.” Author Bob Stanley, writing about this phase of Richard’s career, “With ‘Devil Woman,’ a cracking tune, he became a purveyor of top-end contemporary MOR pop, and commenced a run of sophisticated and memorable singles leading up to 1979’s ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore,’ a (U.K.) No 1 that brought out the best in his soul-lite falsetto. Follow-ups ‘Carrie,’ ‘Wired for Sound’ and ‘Dreaming’ all melded A-grade soft rock to glossy synth-pop in a way that suited Cliff’s creamy vocal style to perfection. He has never sounded more comfortable.” Richard on pop stardom, “If you have the public in the palm of your hand, you can be sure that is where they want to be.”
889. “The Other Woman,” Ray Parker, Jr. Songwriter: Ray Parker, Jr.; #4 pop/#2 R&B; 1982. Detroit native Ray Parker, Jr. was doing studio session work as a teenager and became part of a successful pop act with his late 1970’s band Raydio. He became a solo artist in 1981 and had one of the biggest hits with his debut single, the side chick sex number “The Other Woman.” Ray Parker, Jr, “I remember hearing on the radio, ‘Jessie’s Girl’ by Rick Springfield. Even though it’s really different from ‘The Other Woman,’ what I was thinking about is, he was singing about The Other Woman. But he was singing about, how he WISHES he could have the other woman. I loved the record—it was a wonderful record just the way it is—the guitar parts and everything were great. But I thought it was a punk attitude to wish…he should just TAKE the woman if he wanted her.”
888. “The Salt in My Tears,” Martin Briley. Songwriter: Martin Briley; #36 pop; 1983. British guitarist Martin Briley was in the U.K. prog rock band Greenslade for a short time during the 1970s, before moving to the U.S. for session work. He scored one minor pop/AOR hit with the riff rock of “The Salt in My Tears,” as in “you ain’t worth the…”. Briley, who currently writes the background music for the cable television series “American Pickers,” “I didn’t think ‘The Salt in My Tears’ really represented who I was. It made me sound a lot more rock and roll than I think I was. Yeah, I mean it’s basically a three or four chord song with a riff that everybody’s used, so it didn’t really stick out to me at the time. And y’know, that’s the thing. Is it a hit or is it not a hit? Well…if a song is not necessarily destined to be a hit record, it can still be a hit record once you get the machine of a huge label behind it. And you hear a song over and over again, you start to like it. So, I think they probably could’ve started out with another song and had the same result. But there it is. It’s that.”
887. “I Got You,” Split Enz; #53 pop; 1980. Split Enz formed in New Zealand in 1972 and had major commercial success in their home country and Australia during the early 1980s. Their 1980 single “I Got You” was a Top Twenty hit in Canada and the U.K., but failed to breakthrough in the U.S. Neil Finn, “Tim (Finn) he gave me the title ‘I Got You,’ and I went in and I wrote it, and I thought the verse was pretty good but I thought the chorus was only a bit average and I should change it at some point, but in fact it was never changed. It just goes to show I don’t know a hit when I hear one really.” Journalist Simon Sweetman, “’I Got You’ is the perfect early example of Neil’s melodic gift – his ability to create a great hook; instantly hummable choruses, the things that so often elude a songwriter, that cause the most frustration.”
886. “Mama Used to Say,” Junior. Songwriters: Junior Giscombe, Bob Carter; #30 pop/#2 R&B; 1981. British soul singer Norman Washington “Junior” Giscombe had his biggest U.S. hit, and his only Top 40 entry, with “Mama Used to Say,” a dance number that sounded like Philly soul updated for the synth pop era. (Junior’s biggest U.K. hit was “Another Step (Closer to You),” a 1987 duet with Kim Wilde that sounds like the Jackson 5 updated for the synth pop era). Junior Giscombe, “The song came to me in around ten to fifteen minutes. My mum had always said to me, ‘You keep rushing to get to this age, and you keep rushing to get to that age.’ At one point I played the basic melody demo for my mom, and she said, ‘Junior, this song is going to work for you. Everybody in the world – they love the word ‘mama.’”
885. “Private Dancer,” Tina Turner. Songwriter: Mark Knopfler; #7 pop/#3 R&B; 1985. Tina Turner started her solo career in 1974, with a country album, but didn’t have any chart success until her 1983 cover of Al Green’s “Let Stay Together” slid into the Top 40 and went Top Five R&B. The success of that single resulted in a new contract and the multi-platinum “Private Dancer” album. Mark Knopfler penned the prostitution themed title track and Dire Straits backs Turner on the recording, yet Jeff Beck contributed the guitar solo. Rock critic Stewart Mason, “Turner starts quietly, almost conversational, climaxing with a masterful performance on the bridge at the song’s heart, until she shrieks the line ‘Tell me, do you want to see me do the shimmy again?’ with just as much visceral force as she had managed on ‘River Deep Mountain High’ nearly two decades before.”
884. “Cucaracha Taco,” Joe “King” Carrasco & The Crowns. Songwriter: Joe “King” Carrasco; Did Not Chart; 1984. West Texas native Joe “King” Carrasco valiantly tried to take Tex-Mex rock ‘n’ roll into the mainstream during the 1980s, resurrecting the Vox and Farfisa organ sounds from 1960’s garage music for the new wave era. Carrasco’s single “Party Weekend” received MTV airplay in 1981 and Michael Jackson performed harmony vocals on his early 80’s album track “Don’t Let a Woman (Make a Fool Out of You).” “Cucaracha Taco” is a return to the “96 Tears” rock sound while lyrically Carrasco indulges in weed and tacos. Fast food Mexican chains in Colorado and Canada should resurrect this number for late night/weekend munchie commercials.
883. “Give Me the Night,” George Benson. Songwriter: Rod Temperton; #4 pop/#1 R&B; 1980. Rod Temperton was an English songwriter who provided hits to Heatwave (“Boogie Nights,” “Aways and Forever”), before getting his big break with Michael Jackson (“Rock with You,” “Off the Wall,” “Thriller.”) George Benson received the Michael Jackson treatment with 1980’s “Give Me the Night” – production by Quincy Jones on a Rod Temperton composition. Bruce Warren of NPR, “A slick, smooth disco jam that came toward the end of the disco era, it featured singer Patti Austin on scat vocals. The song was a massive international hit, earning the guitarist and singer a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1980.”
882. “Cry for Love,” Iggy Pop. Songwriters: Iggy Pop, Steve Jones; Did Not Chart; 1986. David Fricke in 1986 on the Iggy Pop “Blah-Blah-Blah” album, “David Bowie owes a good deal of his gold and platinum to Iggy Pop. The mad Michigan daddy of punk is widely believed to have inspired Bowie’s glitter rock creation Ziggy Stardust, and two of Bowie’s biggest hits were about (‘The Jean Genie’) and by (an Iggy-Bowie collaboration, ‘China Girl’) the Pop. (As co-producer) Bowie relies too much on the conventional snap ‘n’ shine of current electro-dance music to frame his protégé’s roguish lyric wit. Yet even at its most familiar, ‘Blah-Blah-Blah’ is as spiritually outraged and emotionally direct as commercial pop gets these days. ‘Cry for Love’ is the best of the best, a ripping fusion of classic Iggy rage, Bowie cabaret and unexpected romantic vulnerability. ‘In searching for/A meaningful embrace/Sometimes my self-respect/Took second place,’ Iggy admits ruefully at one point — shortly before Sex Pistol Steve Jones (who co-wrote the song) zaps him with a cannonball guitar solo.”
881. “Against the Wind,” Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. Songwriter: Bob Seger; #5 pop; 1980. Bob Seger had his first Top 40 hit with “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” in 1968, then spent nine years as a one hit wonder before going Top Five with the sentimental lust song “Night Moves.” He was an established star by the time he released his multi-platinum 1980 “Against the Wind” album, best remembered for the meditative title track about regrets and perpetual life challenges. Seger, “The line ‘Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then’ bothered me for the longest time. It sounded grammatically funny to me. I liked the line, and everybody I played it for – like Glenn (Frey) and Don (Henley) – were saying, ‘That’s the best line in the song,’ but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t right. But I slowly came around.”
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