Saturday, January 24, 2015

Superhits 1983, Part 2

Men at Work, “Down Under,” #1, 1/15/83
Second American single for the Australian band, second single from their album Business as Usual, second #1, this time for three weeks.  The song is a celebration (with some sly jabs) of their homeland. (At least they made fans aware of their origins – concurrent Australian bands such as Little River Band and Air Supply barely acknowledge Australia in their music.)  Still gets a lot of airplay today.

Dionne Warwick, “Heartbreaker,” #10, 1/15/83
Speaking of Australians, this single from Warwick’s album of the same name was written by Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb, a.k.a. The Bee Gees, who had spent some of their formative years living in Australia.  Barry also produced with Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson – all of whom had worked on the Bee Gees’ and Andy Gibb’s big hits.  Per Wesley Hyatt’s The Billboard Book of Number One Adult Contemporary Hits, this was not a favorite of hers (somewhat understandable; the Bee Gees’ voices drowned hers out on the choruses), but it’s hard to argue with a top 10 hit.

Fleetwood Mac, “Love in Store,” #22, 1/15/83
Third single from the band’s album Mirage, written and sung by Christine McVie.  Somewhat trifling, but much of Mirage is like that – Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had released solo albums in the previous year (Nicks’ Bella Donna was phenomenally successful, Buckingham’s Law and Order less so), with the possible result that neither had a backlog of material to contribute.  This song was only released in the US as a single; the third single from the album in the UK, Buckingham’s “Can’t Go Back,” hit #9.

Barry Manilow, “Memory,” #39, 1/15/83
I guess Manilow figured he could beat out Barbra Streisand in turning this ballad from the Broadway show Cats a hit, and he did – not that finishing 13 notches above a #52 song is something to brag about.  (The champ is actually Elaine Paige, from the original West End production of the show, as her version hit #6 in the UK in 1981.)  This was Manilow’s first single from his album Here Comes the Night, and it was also his first leadoff single from an album to not crack the top 30 since “Sweet Water Jones” did nothing from the first release of his first, self-titled album.

Glenn Frey, “All Those Lies,” #41, 1/15/83
Strange when the A-side of your third single was the B-side of your second single, but who am I to say?  Frey used this song as the flip of “The One You Love,” from his first solo album No Fun Aloud, and apparently decided it was worth bumping up.  It wasn’t that the single was flipped (“The One You Love hit #15 in the fall of 1982, and Frey’s discography has the B-side for this song as “Don’t Give Up”), so it’s just a strange occurrence.  Last Frey single to chart until “Sexy Girl” two years later, and the only song from No Fun Aloud he wrote himself – either Jack Tempchin or Bob Seger co-wrote the rest of the originals.

America, “Right Before Your Eyes,” #45, 1/15/83
The followup to America’s “comeback” hit, “You Can Do Magic,” fell a little short, although it did get some radio airplay.  Written by singer-songwriter Ian Thomas (whose brother is Dave Thomas – the guy from SCTV, not the guy from Wendy’s), the song is sometimes mistakenly called “Rudolph Valentino” because of the use of his name at the top of the choruses.

Wolf, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” #55, 1/15/83
Instrumentalist Bill Wolfer – probably best known for co-writing Shalamar’s “Dancing in the Sheets” for 1984’s Footloose soundtrack – charted his only pop hit with this primarily instrumental version of The Temptations’ seminal 1972 hit.  (Wikipedia lists Michael Jackson as being part of the droning vocal chorus, but if he’s there, I can’t hear him.)  Talkbox guitar, which seemed by 1983 to have become passé (remember Peter Frampton’s endless live version of “Do You Feel Like We Do”?) made a mercifully brief comeback here.  Please, do me a favor and stick with the original.

The Steve Miller Band, “Give It Up,” #60, 1/15/83
Third single from Miller’s Abracadabra album, and the second flop (after the equally banal “Cool Magic”).  It almost sounds like Miller got “Abracadabra” in the can, and then decided to make every other song on the album exactly like it – and, based on the songwriting credits for the album, could barely bother to do that (other than this song and “Abracadabra,” all of the songs on the album are by other writers, mostly Gary Mallaber).

Hot Chocolate, “Are You Getting Enough Happiness,” #65, 1/15/83
Eighth and last American chart hit for the multiracial soul band from London, and it’s nothing worth getting excited about.  Considering the band had 37 chart hits in the UK, their American performance had to be somewhat disappointing, but this is nowhere near the level of “You Sexy Thing” or “Every 1’s a Winner,” both of which should be part of any record collection.  They still tour with two of the original members, but lead singer/songwriter Errol Brown ain’t one of them.

The Who, “Eminence Front,” #68, 1/15/83
At least Pete Townshend was willing to try something different. Rather than the more typical Who guitar-driven sound, “Eminence Front” includes a slightly irritating keyboard overlay and a danceable beat, with Townshend (rather than Roger Daltrey) himself taking the lead vocal to warn us about phonies.  He would do a better version of this kind of thing with his solo hit “Face the Face” in 1985, but you still hear this on the radio once in a while.  From what was supposed to be their final studio album, It’s Hard (the one with the kid playing a video game on the front cover).

Hughes/Thrall, “Beg, Borrow or Steal,” #79, 1/15/83
Glenn Hughes played bass for Deep Purple and Black Sabbath at one time or another; Pat Thrall was a guitarist for the Pat Travers Band (and later put in some time with Asia and Meat Loaf).  Given the era, the end result of this collaboration (with Hughes on lead vocals) isn’t surprising:  hard rock with a slight new wave tinge.  This was the single; for the band, it was one album and goodbye.

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