Howdy, and welcome back to another Friday edition of CHART ATTACK! The week we’re attacking this time ’round is a bit depressing – 60% ballads, with only one of them having any type of hopeful message (and that one sucks, anyway). Thankfully, most of the songs, in general, are solid tunes – and oh so synth-a-rific! Let’s take a look at the charts from June 14, 1986!
10. Something About You – Level 42 Amazon iTunes
9. All I Need Is A Miracle – Mike + The Mechanics Amazon
8. No One Is To Blame – Howard Jones Amazon iTunes
7. A Different Corner – George Michael Amazon iTunes
6. Greatest Love Of All – Whitney Houston Amazon iTunes
5. Crush On You – The Jets Amazon iTunes
4. There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry) – Billy Ocean Amazon iTunes
3. I Can’t Wait – Nu Shooz Amazon iTunes
2. Live To Tell – Madonna Amazon iTunes
1. On My Own – Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald Amazon iTunes
10. Something About You – Level 42 (download)
I’m coming clean: I absolutely know nothing about Level 42 (which seems to be right on-par with the rest of the non-music geek section of America). I went over to Wikipedia to find out, um, something about them (sorry), and saw this huge bio. I try to do as much research as I can for these things, but I don’t love you guys enough to read all of this. If anybody else has some really interesting facts you’d like to share about Level 42, by all means, share ’em in the comments. Or hell, write an Idiot’s Guide for Jefito. They certainly have had an extensive, successful career outside of this country. I really do love the song – Mike accurately labeled them as "a funkier version of Tears For Fears" – mainly due to the bass and vocals, courtesy of Mark King, who is the only original member left in the band. Yes, they’re still around.
9. All I Need Is A Miracle – Mike + The Mechanics
Somewhat off-topic, but did anybody ever figure out what these guys had against the ampersand, and why we didn’t subsequently say the band’s name as "Mike Plus The Mechanics?" Anyway, "All I Need Is A Miracle" is a great song – it’s got that driving beat that makes you want to sing it on a summer day while cruising with the top down, only to quickly stop and make sure nobody saw you doing it. Let’s give some props to Mike Rutherford – who would have thought he was going to reach the Top 10 without Genesis – multiple times, even? All three singles from their debut album reached the Top 40 – and two of the videos – this one and the one for "Taken In" – contained a goofy plotline in which British actor Roy Kinnear (best known for his role in Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory) portrayed their manager, and tried to keep Mike
and plus his Mechanics out of trouble. Madcap hilarity ensues. (Slight digression: did you know that Kinnear died when he fell off a horse bled to death during the filming of The Return Of The Musketeers, and director Richard Lester (of Superman II fame) quit directing as a result?)
Well, that was a depressing way to end the entry. On to the video!
8. No One Is To Blame – Howard Jones (download)
Howard Jones wrote some fantastic, quintessential ’80s songs – "Things Can Only Get Better," "Everlasting Love," "Like To Get To Know You Well" (whassup, Better Off Dead?) – but "No One Is To Blame" is, undoubtedly, his best. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing this song. I remember hearing it on the radio as a kid, and going to the library to borrow the record Dream Into Action – only the version I on the album sounded nothing like the version I heard on the radio. What I didn’t know at the time was that Jones had recorded the song for the aforementioned album, then re-recorded it featuring Phil Collins’ production, as well as his drums and his unbelievably beautiful harmony vocal. I think I wound up taping "No One Is To Blame" by sticking a tape recorder in front of my TV’s speaker while the video played on MTV. (Anybody ever done that?) It’s just about impossible to improve upon this version. Oh, and Mike will kill me if I don’t mention the beautiful fretless bass on this track.
Two things I had a really hard time getting past, though:
1) The spoken "is to blame" at the end of the song. Ugh.
2) The hairdo.
I remember one of the whizzes at summer camp was able to sequence the entire backing track into his keyboard, somehow. 20 years have gone by and I’m still trying to figure out how to do it.
In 1992, Jones, famous for his extensive synthesizer work, went on tour armed with only an acoustic piano and a percussionist. Here’s "No One Is To Blame" from that tour, available on Live Acoustic America (Amazon – iTunes – eMusic). It’s not perfect (no need to repeat the last section, and I’m not a fan of the way he occasionally slows the track), but this version proves how well the song works musically when it’s stripped down to the basics.
Howard Jones – No One Is To Blame (live) (download)
Here’s a performance from the 1986 Prince’s Trust Gala. Not the best performance by Jones, but I thought I’d include it here, just in case you wanted to see Phil Collins, Ray Cooper, Mark Knopfler (and – I think – Eric Clapton on the right?) join in on the song.
7. A Different Corner – George Michael
This is the second time George sold Andrew Ridgeley down the river by including a solo tune on a Wham! album. (The first, of course, being "Careless Whisper.") The problem with this song is that it just never goes anywhere. He puts in a great vocal performance as usual, but at the end of the day, it’s really just 4 minutes of George Michael whining, which was uncharacteristic of his ballads. "A Different Corner" was a chart-topper in the UK – Michael became the first solo artist to reach #1 with his first two releases at the time – but in the States, he stalled here at #7. I don’t think America needed another George Michael ballad at the time – and the fact that he publicly stated that this song meant more to him than "Careless Whisper" probably didn’t help matters.
Plus, this video features George’s worst haircut ever (seriously, ever) against a sea of TOO MUCH WHITE. And all I can think is, "man, this guy is really, really hairy."
6. Greatest Love Of All – Whitney Houston
5. Crush On You – The Jets
I suppose I can’t blame them, seeing as we’re talking about 1986 here, but is it too much to ask to just have one instrument be of the analog variety? This song is suffering from serious synth overload, opening with the Roland TR-808 cowbell that was used in the beginning of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and about 300 George Michael songs. Still, it’s a solid pop/dance song, and was the band’s first entry onto the Hot 100, peaking at #3. Although the topic of the song is a bit tedious (let me contemplate all the way in which you might have found out about this crush I’ve been trying to hide from you!), the lyrics are actually a tad smarter than you’ll get from most dance songs today. (Unlike some other Jets songs, though, I don’t think this one was penned by Rupert Holmes. I’m dead serious.)
Anyway, the point here is that the song is passable, but I’m getting frustrated that I’ve covered two Jets songs in the past few weeks and neither one is "Rocket 2 U."
4. There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry) – Billy Ocean
Way to go, Billy. When the going gets tough, the tough use contractions. Who puts a word like "There’ll" in a song at all, let alone in the freaking title? And again with the parentheses! Why? It’s unnecessary! Just "There’ll Be Sad Songs" is enough. It’s not like anyone was going to confuse it with the sad songs that said so much in 1985. I have absolutely nothing else to say about this song. Except I wish Michael McDonald had sung it.
3. I Can’t Wait – Nu Shooz
Every time I play a synthesizer, I eventually make my way to the "special effects" section, where I can judge such esteemed brands as Kurzweil, Korg, Yamaha and Roland purely based on their ability to provide me 88 different tones of a ringing telephone. There’s always an effect that is supposed to replicate the human voice, but I have yet to find a synth that replicates the "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh" sound from "I Can’t Wait." And I will not buy a new fucking keyboard until that happens.
Speaking of that synth sound – is it just me or did this dude just go the least bit overboard? We get it, dude, your Yamaha makes the Oh Face. Let’s move on.
My compadre Jeff has informed me that Nu Shooz have reunited. Man! First it was The Pixies, then The Police, then Genesis, then Crowded House, and now, finally, Nu Shooz! It’s about time! All I need now is for Klymaxx to get back together.
But that’s not all! They’re released – you know what’s coming, right? – "I Can’t Wait (Unplugged)." Here’s a sample from iTunes. I don’t know what to think. It’s not so bad, but you have to completely detach it from the original. They don’t even attempt to replicate the synth sound! No breathy, jazzy "oh" sounds. Boo! Also, I can’t roller skate to it, so it sucks. I roller skated to this song all the time. I’m going to go roller skating right after I finish this chart.
2. Live To Tell – Madonna
This was only the second ballad Madonna ever released as a single, and I don’t count "Crazy For You" ’cause I think that’s a relatively stupid song. "Live To Tell," however, is one of my favorite Madonna songs. Her vocal is particularly beautiful, and I love the production – courtesy of Patrick Leonard, appearing for the first time as a producer on a Madonna single. That being said, I don’t know what she’s talking about or the secret that she has learned, although I do know that until she lives to tell it, it will burn inside of her.
As always, Madonna is thoroughly covered and analyzed on Wikipedia, so go nuts.
1. On My Own – Patti LaBelle and
I don’t love this song – Patti LaBelle’s voice is a bit whiny for my tastes, and sounds like she could go off-pitch at any minute. ("She’s weaving all over the correct pitch like a drunk driver " – Mike) However, you-know-who gives a stunning performance (as always). So I’ll say that McD deserves the #1, but Patti does not. I guess it doesn’t matter what I think, since both of them had the biggest hit of their respective solo careers. Sadly, this song – written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager – was ousted from the top spot after only three weeks, by that bastard Billy Ocean. It’s a shame. Any song featuring Michael McDonald deserves at least 6-12 weeks at #1. Maybe more.
Patti and McD recorded their parts completely separate from one another, and did the same for its ivdeo as well, as if it wasn’t immediately apparent from the director’s "split-screen" concept.
I love how both of them have serious hair issues: Patti’s hair is about to take over the world, and McD’s beard is about to eat his face. You can barely see his mouth moving.
Here are two performances of "On My Own." I can’t get over how fucking annoying Patti LaBelle is. How much do you think McD had to drink in order to get through these performances without shoving his foot up her ass?
And on that note, I’m outta here! Have a great weekend, and we’ll be back here next week for another edition of CHART ATTACK!