Saturday, January 28, 1984

Frankie Goes to Hollywood hit #1 in the UK with “Relax”

First posted 11/13/2019; updated 3/19/2021.

Relax

Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Writer(s): Peter Gill, Holly Johnson, Brian Nash, Marc O’Toole, Paul Rutherford (see lyrics here)


Released: October 24, 1983


First Charted: November 26, 1983


Peak: 10 US, 13 CB, 10 RR, 15 UK, 11 CN, 5 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 2.15 UK, 3.20 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 41.8 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

“Merseyside-based group Frankie Goes To Hollywood…first premiered this track on pivotal [UK] music show The Tube. It sounded like late-Seventies funk. So they hooked up with producer Trevor Horn” MG who had a smash with the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” which he called “a single that you could dance to.” CR He crafted three versions before they hit on the fourth and final cut which only featured member Holly Johnson, with the exception of the sound of the rest of the band jumping into a swimming pol. MG

With its “heavy breathing and the stuttering musical passages, [‘Relax’] owed a debt to Giorgio Moroder’s singles with Donna Summer.” CR The song’s “joyful, tongue-in-cheek lasciviousness” CR and “sexually orientated lyrics” MG were too much for the BBC banned, who banned the song from daytime radio airplay after DJ Mike Read refused to play it. DR Johnson’s open homosexuality made the song that much more controversial. CR Of course, all the attention made people curious about the song, “ensuring its swift rise from #35 into the [UK] top ten (#6) the following week, and on to #1 two weeks later.” MG

The song got another boost, going back to #2, when the follow-up single, “Two Tribes,” soared to #1. “Relax” spent 48 consecutive weeks on the UK chart. After it re-entered and was reissued in 1993, it racked up a total of 59 weeks on the chart. MG

The band will also “be remembered for the record’s unique marketing technique: the t-shirts. Paul Morley, co-director with Horn of ZTT Records, dreamt up the idea, and sold it to the band for £200-300. Soon everybody had snapped up a t-shirt, emblazoned with phrases such as ‘Frankie Says ‘Relax!’” MG


Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, January 21, 1984

Yes hit #1 with “Owner of a Lonely Heart”

Owner of a Lonely Heart

Yes

Writer(s): Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Trevor Horn (see lyrics here)


Released: October 8, 1983


First Charted: November 5, 1983


Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 12 RR, 14 AR, 28 UK, 2 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 46.0 video, 137.93 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Based on their musical output in the 1970s, who would ever guessed Yes would land a #1 pop hit? They practically defined progressive rock with songs based on classical music pieces infused with space-themed lyrics that took up entire album sides. This was “a band who “where often criticized for being overindulgent and pretentious” BR who made songs “that couldn’t become hits, almost by design.” SG As Stereogum’s Tom Breihan said, “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is “a total betrayal of everything that the band had done before…It also kicks ass.” SG

It didn’t start out as a Yes song. After their 1980 Drama album, it looked the band was done. Bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White hooked up with South African singer/songeriter Trevor Rabin to form a group called Cinema. Interestingly, Rabin had turned down an offer to join Asia – a band which featured Yes members Steve Howe and Geoff Downes. Tony Kaye, who’d formerly been a keyboardist with Yes, also signed on and Trevor Horn, who’d also been with the 1980 version of Yes, was tapped as the producer. When the group invited lead singer Jon Anderson to participate, “it seemed ridiculous to call the band Cinema when they had unintentionally re-formed Yes.” BR

Rabin wrote the song in 1979 while going to the toilet. WK In 1981, the song was included amongst demos he pitched to Arista Records’ Clive Davis WK who said it “was too weird to be a hit in America” SG but Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records insisted it was a hit. SF In 1983, the toilet played a role yet again in bringing “Owner of a Lonely Heart” to fruition. While Rabin was in the bathroom, his demo tape was running and Horn heard it. He pleaded with the band to record it. WK

Rabin’s version already sported the “big synth sounds and its central riff,” SG but had other parts that were later deleted. Other members of the band polished it and made it “sound bigger and weirder.” SG It may be the first rock hit to use a sample. The drum break at the beginning of the song and the horn stab from several times in the song are similar to a bit from 1971’s “Kool Is Back” by Funk, Inc. SF

The lyrics expressed the idea that “it’s OK to be on your own and that you can decide your own destiny rather than putting all your energy into falling in love.” SG It “describes the paradox of loneliness> Once you’ve been hurt, loneliness is better than a broken heart.” SF

While this was #1 in the United States, “Relax” by Frankie and Hollywood topped the charts in the UK. Both songs were produced by Trevor Horn, giving him the distinction of being the only producer to have simultaneous #1 songs on both sides of the pond by different artists. SF


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Yes
  • DMDB page for parent album 90125
  • BR Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 582.
  • SF Songfacts
  • SG StereogumThe Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 8/5/2021.

Friday, January 20, 1984

50 years ago: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” hit #1

First posted 1/20/2016; updated 3/16/2021.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Paul Whiteman with Bob Lawrence

Writer(s): Jereome Kern/ Otto Harbach (see lyrics here)


First Charted: December 9, 1933


Peak: 16 US, 2 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

The Platters

Writer(s): Jereome Kern/ Otto Harbach (see lyrics here)


First Charted: November 17, 1958


Peak: 13 US, 14 CB, 14 HR, 3 RB, 11 UK, 13 CN, 110 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 28.7 video, -- streaming

Awards (Paul Whiteman version): (Click on award for more details).

Awards (The Platters’ version): (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

According to Otto Harbach, Jerome Kern originally composed “Smoke” for 1927’s Showboat. It was supposed to be an uptempo instrumental which accompanied a tap dance routine while scenery was changed, LW although another account had the song originating as a march for a radio program which never happened. TY Harbach suggested refashioning it as a ballad, at which point it was left out of Showboat. LW

The song is filled with challenges – such as the octave-and-a-half range for singers and, for players, a surprising key change at the bridge. MM In addition, Harbach works in unlikely words like “chaffed” and “deride” – all leading toward the song’s conclusion about the end of a love affair – and the final line when the title is mentioned for the first time. MM

It resurfaced in 1933 for the Broadway musical Roberta. That same year, Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra charted with it, going to #1 the next year. Leo Reisman (#3), Emil Coleman (#4), and Ruth Etting (#15) also charted with the song in 1934. In 1935, the musical was turned into a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film. Irene Dunne performed “Smoke” in the movie. SB Artie Shaw took the song back to the charts in 1941 (#24). It was also used in the 1946 Kern biopic Till the Clouds Roll By. MM

Roberta was remade in the 1950s as the new musical and movie, Lovely to Look At. LW Then, in 1958, the doo-wop group the Platters took their million-selling version to the top of the US and UK charts, showcasing “the song’s ability to both transcend time and lend itself to varied interpretations and still remain fresh.” LW


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Paul Whiteman
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Jerome Kern
  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Otto Harbach
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 67.
  • MM Max Morath (2002). The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards. New York, NY; Penguin Putnam Inc. Page 181.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 70.

Monday, January 9, 1984

Van Halen released 1984: January 9, 1984

Originally posted January 9, 2012.

image from metalsucks.net



Van Halen’s sixth outing, 1984, “was a successful record not only because it contained solid, catchy hard rock, but also because it incorporated synthesizers into the mix, the first metal album to do so to any serious extent.” AZ However, that “hoopla…was a bit of a red herring since the band had been layering in synths since their third album, Women and Children First. Those synths were either buried beneath guitars or used as texture.” AMG

“Of course, the mere addition of a synth wasn’t enough to rope in fair-weather fans – they needed pop hooks and pop songs, which 1984 had, most gloriously on the exuberant, timeless Jump.” AMG “The synths played a circular riff that wouldn’t have sounded as overpowering on guitar, but the band didn’t dispense with their signature monolithic, pulsating rock. Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony grounded the song…and David Lee Roth simply exploded with boundless energy.” AMG It was “one of the chief reasons [1984] became a blockbuster.” AMG

Earlier albums “placed an emphasis on the band’s attack, this places an emphasis on the songs” AMG and offers “the best set of original tunes Van Halen ever had.” AMG Panama features “the band’s signature sound elevated to performance art” AMG while Hot for Teacher is “lean and giddy, their one anthem that could be credibly covered by garage rockers.” AMG

“To a large extent, it was 1984 that set the standard for ‘80s pop metal, and David Lee Roth who set the standard (or takes the blame, depending on your point of view) for the aggressively good-time attitude most pop-metal bands took for their own.” AZ He “turned the frontman role into an art form.” AMG “It’s the best showcase of Van Halen’s instrumental prowess as a band, the best showcase for Diamond Dave’s glorious shtick, the best showcase for their songwriting, just their flat-out best album overall.” AMG As Rolling Stone’s J.D. Considine said, it is “the album that brings all of Van Halen’s talents into focus.” WK




Awards:

Resources and Related Links: