CLASSICS: WORLD MUSIC
I absolutely love Billy Ocean’s music. These days, I wonder exactly how many people even remember him. Billy Ocean is one of the very few Caribbean musicians, where it seems all of his music was intentionally customized and marketed to the American audience. Now, I spoke about this before, very few artist from the Caribbean (in my opinion) can musically cross over to American genres and sound good (that is if the band isn’t naturally drawn to that said genre). Just in case… Please don’t confuse my statement to mean the same as “reinterpretations, or redo’s,” those are not the same. Reinterpreting an American song, is not the same when a producer tries to change your natural inclination for YOUR own music. However, I feel Billy Ocean is one of the very few exceptions to that rule. Not only does the music that was produced worked for him, he has the perfect voice to go along with it. With hits like “Suddenly,” which happens to be one of my very favorite ballads from Mr. Ocean, hit #4 on the Hot 100 Charts. Beautifully sung.
If I am correct, Mr Ocean is now 68 years old. Remembering when I first heard his music from his self titled album “Billy Ocean (1976),” I am stunned as to how different he looks now. I guess maybe because he really hasn’t had a huge hit since around the end of 1980s, I only remembered him as far as his last hit. I believe Billy’s last huge hit was in 1988, with a song called “Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car.” “Get Outta My…..” was number one in the U.S., and it stayed number one for 2 consecutive weeks. The song continued to stay relevant on the charts for about 20 more weeks.
Boney M. was formed in the early 70s, based out of Germany. They were a popular disco and dance group. From what I’ve read they’ve had a number of number one hits under their belt. However, I guess because they were based out in Germany, I’m having trouble finding the stats I want. My favorite song produced by them was released in 1976, and the song was called “Sunny.” I know this song was their second #1, but I don’t know how long it was on the charts. I’m going to make an assumption that it was number one in Germany (don’t quote me). This song truly represented the spirit of just one of the many disco styles we had from back in the day. This song was actually a cover to Bobby Hebb‘s original “Sunny.”
Do you guys remember a group called Yes? Yes is an English band that does mostly rock music. They formed in the very late sixties in London. Now, when it comes to music from the UK I can be very picky (actually I’m picky with most music); They’ve had many hits, but I don’t really dig their music to be honest. However, there was one song that became a major hit that I love. It’s called “Owner Of A Lonely Heart.” The song was released in 1983, and stayed number one for two weeks! It lasted on the charts for about 23-24 weeks, so, the song was really huge. The style of this particular song reminds me very much the kinds of music you would hear Sting/The Police produce. Once you hear this song I know you’ll remember!
I wonder if any of my readers remember a guy by the name of Malcolm McLaren? Well, he was a musician and songwriter from London. He was also a very well known promoter, and at one time managed a group called “The Sex Pistols!” What a name for a group LOLOL 😀 Now, to be honest, I don’t particularly care for a lot of his music. I don’t mean that to be cruel, it’s just a lot of these London cats love to make a lot of weird experimental shit. LOL.
Anyway, I think he is worthy of writing about, because he produced two very huge hits that I’m sure most of us remember, one is called “Buffalo Gals.” Remember that? The song was a major top 10 hit in the UK. According to a number of articles I’ve read, Buffalo Gals only did mediocre in the united states. However, I remember the hip-hop community completely embracing this music mix. Maybe they just expected more since they killed it in the UK. The other major hit he produced in 1989, actually became #1 here in the states on the Dance Songs Chart, that song was called “Deep In Vogue.” I believe this was the start of the Vogue dance craze. However, just to let you straight people know, Vogue was around loooooong before it was made in to a fad in the late 80s.
A year after, Madonna came out with her smash #1 hit “Vogue,” which was recorded on her “Dick Tracy” inspired album. Interesting that a song like that would be on a comic book inspired album. If you’re interested, here is the video for “Vogue.” Boy!! How did I get from writing about Malcolm McLaren to Madonna!! See how many things are often tied together? Malcolm died in 2010 of stomach cancer.
I’ve always been a fan of Phil Collins from the beginning; and that includes when he started with the group “Genesis.” Phil joined Genesis from early to mid 70s, so, the man has been around for a long, long time! This phenomenal Englishmen, is both a talented music performer and an actor. He started out as a master drummer and lead singer of Genesis; his music has been used on many TV shows and movies such as “CSI NY,” and “Despicable Me 3” just to name a few. Even after leaving Genesis and going solo, he continued to bust out some amazing songs that became hits in both the UK and in the US. One of my many favorite works from him is a song called “Take Me Home,” first released in the UK on 1985; then in the US in 1986. under Atlantic Records. This was a very popular song that reached #2 on the American Hot Contemporary Charts, but in the UK it reached only #19 (which wasn’t exactly bad either).
Another very very favorite song of mine he did, was a song called “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now),” which was the theme song to the movie “Against All Odds (1984),” starring Rachel Ward and Jeff Bridges. Now, I have to be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot of the movie, but Phil’s performance of this song without a doubt was jaw dropping in my opinion. Such powerful lyrics, together with Phil’s heartfelt performance, it almost makes you want to shed a tear. Unfortunately this historic tune is wiped away from the memories of many. In the U.S., Norway, Ireland, and Canada, the song reached #1. UK it reached #2, everywhere else was in the range between #4 & #10. So this was a hugely successful single. I dare to say it was more popular than the movie itself.
Ok, last one I’m going to share. I absolutely cannot end this article without talking about this song. Phil did a duet with Earth, Wind and Fire’s Phillip Bailey, called “Easy Lover (1985).” This song was a song made perfect for them! Two awesome performers coming together to give us perfection. It is a fun & danceable song; and you know what? That’s right!! You’ve guessed it! It also became another hit, in the #2 position on the Top 100 Chart, and stayed relevant for 23 weeks! So, there you have it! Amazing artists, and three amazing songs to start your Monday morning.
I got a good one for you guys this morning. Do you remember Neneh Cherry? Believe it or not, Neneh was born in Sweden, and grow up to be one of the most well known “one hit wonders” of the 80s (speaking in terms of foreign/imported music to America). I’m really not sure how her music did around the world, so I really can’t say. However, from my perspective, she sang only one song I liked which became a huge hit here. The song is called “Buffalo Stance.” The song peaked at #3 both in the U.S. and in the U.K. It stayed relevant for about 26 weeks. I really liked this pop song, and I used to listen to it all the time. Unfortunately, I didn’t like anything else she produced throughout he career. I know there’s another song that did well on the charts called “Kisses On The Wind,” which I think peaked #8, but I really wasn’t feeling that song. Neneh continues to perform, and even sometimes DJ everyone in a while.
I was soooo tempted to insert these guys in the “One Hit” category. These odd looking characters are from England, and they call themselves the “Thompson Twins.” The first thing I thought was, they don’t look like twins at all! Not by a long shot! 😀 What the hell? LOL. But then I realize that their name was actually genius! Why? Because you read the name, and you look at these three, it kind of forces you to want to see what their music is about. Worked on me! Believe it or not, these guys have been around for a long, long time. In fact, they were originally known as “Thompson and Thompson,” with several more members. The band formed in 1977, and they performed mostly British pop music. But as members dropped over the years, they then decided to rename themselves and go more “mainstream.” I interpret that “mainstream” meant to be more American.
Although they’ve had many hits through their career, I really only liked two songs from them. The one that I love the most, is a song called “Hold Me Now,” from their album named “Into The Gap.” Not sure what it was about the song I liked so much. When you first hear Tom Bailey sing, you can immediately tell he’s British. I found it kind of mesmerizing, because for most British performers, you don’t hear their strong accent when they perform. In fact, most sound quite American if you ask me. However, the Thompson Twins sound very much like a British band singing over American music. Maybe that’s what attracted me, the unique blend of a British voice with American style. “Hold Me Now” shot up to #3 on the American Billboard, and stayed relevant for about 21 weeks. The second song I like from the same album, is a song called “Doctor, Doctor.” Actually to be truthful, it’s still a lame song, but “Doctor, Doctor,” became more of a catchy phrase I could not get out of my head. If I’m correct, this song peaked at #11, and stayed on the charts for about a little more than 15 weeks. These are the only works I liked from the group. I just couldn’t get into them. They were like listening to rebellious 80s teenagers, singing all the type of songs their mom didn’t want them to sing. But I loved their unique look tho.
You know, before I decided to stop doing album reviews and focus more on individual songs, I wish I would have remembered Lisa Stansfield’s first album. Why? Almost every single song on this album I absolutely LOVE!!!! Definitely, this is one of those rare occasions where I liked an entire album, from side A to B. Now, on they day she released the original album, there was only one record. However, Spotify includes bonus tracks making it a deluxe two album set. I would have loved to have this in my record collection. But I’m also sure if a physical copy is available, it would cost an arm and a leg by now. Or probably sold as an import most likely. I used to call her Betty Boop, because this was the image she gave in almost all of her music videos when she came out. Her album “Affection,” to my understanding is still her most successful album. Lisa’s song called “All Around The World,” from the Affection album was her most popular hands down. In March 1990, the song peaked at #1, and stayed on the charts for 14 weeks.
My other original favorite form this album, is a song called “This Is The Right Time,” and the video for this song was awesome too. This song also hit number 1, and stayed on the charts for about 9 weeks. Lisa was definitely steaming hot with her first album! Lastly, there’s a song on this album called “Live Together” which I really, really love. The song did not get as much recognition as it deserved in my opinion. Check it out and see what you think? The album has a number of cute remixes, and extended mixes I’m hearing for the first time as I’m writing this article. Come relive the 90s by listening to Lisa’s classic Affection album.