Welcome back, everybody, to another edition of CHART ATTACK! I know that you’ve been dying all week to know what was rocking the charts during the week of April 18, 1981. Or not. Well, either way, that’s the week we’re attackin’, so let’s get started!
10. Don’t Stand So Close To Me – The Police Amazon iTunes
9. The Best Of Times – Styx Amazon iTunes
8. Being With You – Smokey Robinson Amazon iTunes
7. While You See A Chance – Steve Winwood Amazon iTunes
6. Angel Of The Morning – Juice Newton Amazon iTunes
5. Woman – John Lennon Amazon
4. Just The Two Of Us – Grover Washington, Jr. (with Bill Withers) Amazon iTunes
3. Morning Train (Nine To Five) – Sheena Easton Amazon
2. Rapture – Blondie Amazon iTunes
1. Kiss On My List – Daryl Hall & John Oates Amazon iTunes
10. Don’t Stand So Close To Me – The Police
So the question, of course, needs to be asked: which version do you prefer, 1980 or 1986? My first Police album was their compilation Every Breath You Take – The Singles, which only included the ’86 version, so that was my initial exposure to the song. I suppose I preferred that version for a while (I love the backing vocals), until I finally heard the full original version. Now, I’m not quite sure. I think the ’86 version is much more consistent in its dark tone that matches the lyrical content, but then again, the ’80 opening – plus the dichotomy between the verses and choruses – sound pretty chilling as well. Being that both are so different (and I love that they are), perhaps it’s not even worth comparing. I can’t imagine anybody saying they prefer ’86, anyway; even if it’s true, it just sounds uncool.
Where was I? Oh yes, "Don’t Stand So Close To Me." Sting insists that the story of this song – a teacher falling for a student – was not based on his own pre-Police experiences as an English teacher. Although the group had plenty of recognizable songs before this one – "Roxanne," "Message In A Bottle," "Can’t Stand Losing You" – none of these were big hits in the U.S. "Don’t Stand" reached #10 and became their first stand-out single in the country.
Numerous sources point out – and I’m stupid for not realizing this before – that "don’t stand so close to me" is melodically quite similar to Sting’s "I want my MTV" cameo in Dire Straits’ "Money For Nothing" – so much so that when it was realized, Sting’s lawyers got involved and insisted Sting be granted a co-writing credit. I’m not saying that they were wrong, but damn, Knopfler really felt that sting. Huh? Huh??!? I just wrote that one!
In other news, did you guys hear that The Police are reforming? True story.
9. The Best Of Times – Styx
Suck it, Tommy Shaw!
I don’t know why I’m so down on Tommy Shaw. I guess I just find it so funny that this man – one who really wants to rock but has the babyface of a bubblegum pop star – was stuck backing Dennis DeYoung, probably mumbling "this is fucking stupid" the whole time, and then had to sit back and watch DeYoung’s songs reach the top of the charts. (Yes, Shaw had hits in Styx as well, but they never surpassed DeYoung’s.) And "The Best Of Times" isn’t even that great a track. I’ll give it credit for a strong, catchy opening (even if we’re subjected to DeYoung’s "hey look, I could be on Broadway!" vibrato), but not much else. The keyboard/vocal "with you tonight" effect is creepy, and could they have possibly chosen worse dynamics later in the song, where they go:
these are the best OF TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIMES!
It makes me wince every time I hear it. Incidentally, this song debuted at #31, which was the highest debut for any song on the charts in 1981.
8. Being With You – Smokey Robinson
You gotta love the opening of "Being With You" – it seems separate from the rest of the track, and sounds like it belongs as the soundtrack to a Cinemax softcore porn flick. The keyboards that accompany the rest of the song may give away the fact that it’s an early ’80s tune, but in my mind, Smokey Robinson’s sweet voice is timeless, so when I think of this one, I definitely don’t associate it with 1981.
Robinson had left his legendary band The Miracles back in 1972, and had only experienced minor success as a solo act until 1980, when he reached #4 with "Cruisin’." That same year, Kim Carnes released "More Love," a cover of the Smokey Robinson & The Miracles #23 hit from 1967. It was Carnes’ first solo success (a year before "Bette Davis Eyes"), and a grateful Robinson decided to give her a song he had been working on, entitled "Being With You." He handed it off to George Tobin, who had produced Carnes’ "More Love" (and would go on to record ’80s sensation Tiffany, but that’s another story). However, Tobin was no longer collaborating with Carnes, and suggested that Robinson record it himself.
Tobin produced the track for Robinson, which wound up becoming his biggest solo hit. It topped the UK charts, but couldn’t get past #2 in the US. Keeping it from the top spot? "Bette Davis Eyes."
7. While You See A Chance – Steve Winwood (download)
"While You See A Chance" was a collaboration between Winwood and award-winning composer Will Jennings. You know Jennings: he either wrote or co-wrote hits like "I’ll Never Love This Way Again," "Up Where We Belong," "Didn’t We Almost Have It All," "Tears In Heaven," and (shudder) "My Heart Will Go On." The collaboration between the two proved to be a good idea: "While You See A Chance" was Winwood’s highest charting single since "Gimme Some Lovin’" in 1966. Jennings and Winwood went on to become frequent collaborators, and nearly all of Winwood’s hits in the late ’80s can be attributed to this partnership.
I’ve always liked "While You See A Chance." It’s synthesizer central – good luck finding a guitar anywhere – and I especially love Winwood’s preference for the unmistakeable synthesizer sound that lies somewhere between a trumpet and a fart. The synth opening is also memorable, and was actually a mistake on Winwood’s part: originally, he had written a drum track introduction (Winwood plays all instruments on this song and the accompanying album, Arc Of A Diver), but accidentally deleted it while getting ready to record his vocals. Unable to recreate it, he quickly pieced together the synth intro. Funny, though – I don’t think he had the same accident during the recording of "The Finer Things," which has an eerily similar intro – and, wouldn’t you know it, that track was also co-written by Jennings!
"While you see a chance, take it/find romance, fake it/because it’s all on you." I love that line. I shall put that next to Kenny Loggins’ "This Is It" on my list of Cheesy Songs That Inspire Me.
6. Angel Of The Morning – Juice Newton
Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh. And I said this about the song back when all I knew was the chorus. I hate this song. Why have so many people recorded this song? Olivia Newton-John, The Pretenders (Chrissie, how could you?), Ray Conniff, Percy Faith, and of course, Bonnie Tyler, because why should Bonnie Tyler leave anything well enough alone. Anyway, I’ll try to get over my extreme prejudice of this song (what’s with the military drums and the tolling bells? It’s about a one-night stand, not about someone going to war!) and give you a little bit of trivia about "Angel Of The Morning." It was written by Chip Taylor (a stage name – his real name is James Voight, and yes, he’s Jon’s brother). Taylor had a knack for writing songs that were moderate hits on first release, but were really destined to find true success later. He wrote "Wild Thing," which was originally recorded by The Wild Ones, but wasn’t a hit until The Troggs covered it. Similarly, he wrote "Angel Of The Morning," originally recorded by Evie Sands in 1967. Sands’ version wasn’t bad, but stopped dead in its tracks once her record company went bankrupt. The next year, Merilee Rush had a #7 hit with the same song. Of course, it’s Newton’s version that most people remember best, which peaked at #4. And, of course, who can forget Shaggy’s 2001 re-working of the song, entitled "Angel," which hit #1 and will now be in your head the rest of the day.
5. Woman – John Lennon
[audio:http://www.wwmmd.net/tunes/inline/ramen.mp3] (If you’re new to the site and don’t understand what the hell that clip is all about, check out Mellow Gold #19, where we get into deep discussion about "Woman." The rest of you – you know you were begging for me to post that clip. Incidentally, I’m hoping that my "ramen" makes it into someone’s mash-up one day.)
4. Just The Two Of Us – Grover Washington, Jr. (with Bill Withers)
Ahhh, Bill Withers. I love Bill Withers. Who doesn’t love Bill Withers? (He’s like parfait.) I was surprised to find out that this song isn’t primarily credited to Withers, but to Washington, a master of the saxophone who unfortunately got sucked into smooth jazz later in life (and supposedly was at least somewhat responsible for the rise of Kenny G). I love the saxophone on this song, but it’s the piece as a whole – and notice, again, that there are no guitars to be found on this song – that is just a beaut. Withers was a fan of Washington’s, as the saxophonist had covered Withers’ "Ain’t No Sunshine" on his debut record, Inner City Blues, but the two hadn’t met until Washington called him in for this recording. Despite the enduring popularity of this song, Washington and Withers didn’t have any more of a relationship after recording than they had previously. "Just The Two Of Us" remained in the Top 10 for a respectable eleven weeks.
Washington died in 1999 of a heart attack after an appearance on CBS’ The Early Show; Withers is still alive, and his music still permeates pop culture (I can’t help but think about Austin Powers when I hear this song, even though I don’t want to). However, he barely records or performs anymore. (Oddly enough, he can be found performing recently with Jimmy Buffett.) As he says, "I didn’t quit the record business; the record business quit me."
3. Morning Train (Nine To Five) – Sheena Easton
I mentioned this in a previous Chart Attack, but isn’t it hard to believe that this is the same Sheena Easton who later released the smokin’ hot "The Lover In Me" and became a Prince concubine? How did that come about? And did he offer her "Manic Monday" as well? The world may never know. (By the way, last week’s Chart Attack! was more popular than most, thanks to the Prince/Apollonia "Manic Monday" bootleg reaching the "Most Popular" list on Hype Machine over the weekend. I can’t tell you how tempted I am to invent a Prince/Sheena Easton "Manic Monday" mp3 right now.)
"Morning Train (Nine To Five)," so re-named in America as to not cause confusion with Dolly Parton’s "9 To 5" (also a hit in ’81) was Easton’s first U.S. single, and what a great introduction: it hit #1 in May, and remains her only chart-topper in America. Overall, this song isn’t bad. I mean, it’s really all about the chorus. Clearly, they were going for some serious Manhattan Transfer-esque backing vocals, and when you put it all together with Sheena’s voice, you have a pretty catchy hook. There are even two truck driver’s gear changes in this song, but you’ll notice that the very last one is tackled only by the backing vocalists. No way was Easton going to sing the chorus in that key.
In fact, the real shame of the song is that the lyrics are completely idiotic and set feminism back about 80 years. "My baby takes the morning train/he works from nine to five and then/he takes another home again/to find me waiting for him." Somewhere in the world, Gloria Steinem had to be convinced not to take her own life.
Here’s the video. I don’t care that it was 1981 – there’s no excuse for any of this. The bike-riding, the hairdo, the makeup, the ugly aqua-blue pantsuit. The belt. THE BELT!!! Somewhere in the world, Liberace had to be convinced not to take his own life.[youtube]Cg2IA2UYQCA[/youtube]
2. Rapture – Blondie
Why are we still proudly giving Blondie credit for introducing rap to the white people and the radio? I don’t care if it’s true (and it’s probably not true). My point is this: has anybody listened to the rap? It starts off promisingly, name-checking Fab Five Freddy and Grandmaster Flash, and just goes downhill from there. I can take it up until right after she mentions a Subaru. Then she starts in with this tale of The Man From Mars eating cars and bars and, uh…guitars. Who didn’t see that coming? You know, I wrote a rap like this, once. Only problem is that it was also 1981, and I was four.
Remember the video? If you thought it was bad enough that white people were rapping, you should see them dance, DJ, and spray graffiti![youtube]xHPikUPlRD8[/youtube]
"Rapture" hit #1 earlier in the month, and was the first hip-hop song to reach the top. That much is true. Additionally, Debbie Harry was incredibly hot at the time. This is also irrefutable fact.
1. Kiss On My List – Daryl Hall & John Oates (remix download!)
I have very little to say about "Kiss On My List." I love this song. Love the piano part, especially, followed by those perfect H&O backing vocals. It’s catchy, it’s light, it’s wonderful. Apparently Daryl Hall believed (believes?) that Eddie Van Halen stole the piano part for the "Jump" synth part. Anybody else think that’s complete bullshit?
While Hall wrote a number of songs with Sara Allen, this song was co-written by Sara’s younger sister, Janna. Supposedly, this is the first song Janna ever wrote. I don’t care if it’s true or not; I love "Kiss On My List." I figure everybody has the original, so the version up for download is from a compilation of H&O remixes. I decided to include it because last week, JB from the awesome The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ pointed me in the direction of Born Again ’80s, a fantastic site with tons of remixes of our favorite ’80s tunes. Be sure to check it out!
And that’s it for another Billboard week! Have a great weekend, and see you same time, same place next week for another CHART ATTACK!