Thursday, August 17, 2017

Junior - Mama Used to Say (1982)

 Mama Used to Say
b/w Mama Used to Say (Instrumental)

Released: April, 1982 (Mercury)
Written by: Junior Giscombe, Bob Carter
Produced by: Bob Carter
Album: Ji

 U. S. Billboard Charts:
 Hot 100 30
 R&B 2

Wow, what a fantastically funky bass line.  This overlooked gem from British R&B singer Junior (Norman Washington Giscombe) is ripe for a revisit.  This song was a bigger hit in Junior's native UK than here in the US and really can't figure out why.  Following an introduction that reminds me of "Groovin'" by The Young Rascals, this thing is completely danceable, has a huge growly hook on the chorus, great rhythm guitar riff on the verse, someone is pounding the keys off the piano in the background of the chorus, and then there's that bass line.  What's not to like?  Well, I'm not wild about the synth horns, but those would become ubiquitous on R&B hits a few years later.  In fact, this whole thing has a 1986 sound to it.  I guess Junior was ahead of his time. Sadly, this would be his only Top 40 pop hit, although he did place 3 more songs on the dance charts in 1982-84.  Speaking of dancing, click the YouTube clip below and join me.

Cash Box, March 6, 1982, p. 9
Update, August 17, 2017: Just picked up a copy of the 12" single (Netherlands import), which includes the following:

(for reference, the single edit clocks in at 3:35). The "Club Mix" takes a good thing and makes it even better with an extended intro and outro. The "Party Mix" changes up the percussion and pushes that bass line back in the mix while bringing up the synth horns and guitar, much to my displeasure. I'll stick with the former. Nothing special about the instrumental cut but possibly useful for drunken karaoke (I plead the fifth).

Bonus useless trivia: I put this thing on the turntable with the speed set to 33⅓ because of the sleeve:

but, as you probably guessed, it's actually a 45 rpm 12".

And, if you need 'em, there's lackluster cover versions by Beverley Knight (2011) and Jupiter (2012), although I'd like to hear a version with Knight's vocals over Jupiter's backing tracks. Somebody mash that up, please and thank you.

originally posted May 7, 2014

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

MFD Random Five #22

In which I click the shuffle icon on the iTunes app and listen to the first five songs that pop up from the years 1976-85.

  1. "The Kick of Love" by Nick Heyward (1983, Arista)
    Considering the amount of Heyward tunes in my library, it's surprising this one hasn't come up before. The song begins and ends with jazz breaks which Heyward claims is his favorite memory of making the North of a Miracle album: "seeing the look on my father's face as his heroes played jazz on 'The Kick of Love.'" Great melody, tasty horn parts, acoustic guitar solo, driving chorus, I could gush for a while. A fantastic song but it's not even in the top half of songs on the album. 

  2. "A Go Talk (Tappy Luppy Dub)" by The English Beat (1982, I.R.S.)
    The extended mix of "Pato and Roger A Go Talk" from Special Beat Service. As the title suggests, there's lots of ranking over a heavy reggae beat from Pato (Banton) and (Ranking) Roger. I prefer the album mix as this one starts and stops a few too many times, but like the Heyward album above, I can easily listen to Special Beat Service all the way through then hit the repeat button. In fact, it placed at #7 on my list of the Top 82 Albums of 1982. (Below: your humble blogger in the mid-'80s wearing his favorite English Beat tee with the sleeves carefully cut off)

  3. "Est-ce que c'est Chic?" by Chic (1977, Atlantic)
    If my two years of barely skating through high school French is any help, I think that title translates to "Is it Chic?" A track that proves even Chic album filler is fantastic and danceable. Love the Bernard Edwards bass line, but could use a little more of Nile Rodgers' immediately identifiable guitar work. Bonus points for vibraphone throughout. 

  4. "Radio Silence (Guitar Version)" by Thomas Dolby (1982, EMI)
    My friend Scott and I each purchased LPs of The Golden Age of Wireless when we were in high school.  However, they were different releases with different songs.  Most notably, we each owned a different version of the "Radio Silence" (he had the "guitar version," I didn't), so we would needlessly argue about which was the better version.  I said my version was superior, but I actually prefer the guitar version, mainly because of the spoken lyric about 3 minutes in: "Trytothinkofnothing. Trytothinkofnothing. Trytothinkofnothing..." by Lene Lovich. Oh! Do I like the song? Heck, I love the whole album.  In fact, it placed at #5 on my list of the Top 82 Albums of 1982, and I selected "Radio Silence" as the second best cut on the thing. 

  5. "#3 (In the Corn Belt)" by Dinosaur L (1981, Sleeping Bag Records)
    As of yet, I'm not sure I fully understand the No Wave experimental disco of Dinosaur L (Arthur Russell), but I'm enjoying the journey. Love the D.I.Y. ethos. If club names like The Kitchen or Paradise Garage mean anything to you, you'll like this. In 1981, however, 15 year old Mark would have run away from this sort of thing.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Terry Williams - Blame It on the Night (1980)

 Blame It on the Night
b/w Blame It on the Night (stereo)

Released: never released? (International Artists)
Written by: Robert Byrne & Tom Brasfield
Produced by: Ian Gardiner
Album: none

 U. S. Billboard Charts:
 Adult Contemporary 30

I was looking at Adult Contemporary charts for the summer of 1980 in preparation for a blog post and came across a listing for this song. I couldn't find a copy anywhere save for a YouTube video that seems to have been recorded from a radio broadcast. Nonetheless, I was immediately hooked by the tune and here we are. (For the record, the aforementioned blog post never materialized as I got sidetracked by this tune.)

The artist that recorded this single isn't Terry Williams the British drummer or Terry Williams the trombonist, but Terry Williams the founding member of First Edition.

Williams worked in the country and Christian realms of the music industry, so this sweet soft rocker is an odd outlier. The writers, Byrne and Brasfield, are better known for writing country songs while the producer, Ian Gardiner, is a Canadian bass player who played with Burton Cummings of The Guess Who. So while this is indeed a strange mix of folks, it somehow works. This soft rock single wouldn't be out of place in Rhino's Radio Daze series (real or imagined) or one of Professor Eddy's mixes.

I can't find a record of the musicians on this song, but we're treated to the unusual combination of both harmonica and tenor sax solo lines. All the familiar soft rock tropes are present as well: female background vocals, electric piano, and string pads. Williams' voice reminds me a (very little) bit of Johnny Mathis, but he has some problems with enunciation; first lines: "If God let rum dry, now that your heart's so lair." (Actual lyrics: "You probably learned by now that your heart's a liar.")

I can't find any record (no pun intended) of this thing ever receiving an an official release because all I've ever seen are promotional copies. Even the discogs website currently only lists a promo copy.  I recently found a (relatively) cheap copy of the promo single on eBay, bought it, ripped it, and uploaded it to YouTube. Enjoy below.

So how can a promo single reach the Billboard charts without ever selling any copies? Well, the charts were subject to the whims of editors back then, but it appears that the Adult Contemporary charts in 1980 were based solely on airplay. At least that's my interpretation of the following explanation from Billboard:

Sales based on airplay? Is it just me or does that sentence make no sense? Please advise.

Other versions. First, a tasty Muscle Shoals take from the songwriter himself (which is likely to send me down another rabbit hole), followed by a cover by the Hawaiian group Fabulous Krush.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Promo posters as seen on "WKRP in Cincinnati" #27

Albums: Huey Lewis and The News - Huey Lewis and The News (Chrysalis, 1980)*, The Doors - Greatest Hits (Elektra, 1980), Jeff Beck - There and Back (Epic, 1980), Gamma - Gamma 2 (Elektra, 1980)
Episode:  Season 3, Episode 8, "Baby, It's Cold Inside"
Original air date: Saturday, January 3, 1981

*As mentioned in Episode 30 of the "Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser" WKRP podcast.