Let's Make Mixtapes

Keeping your childhood pop icons alive…even the ones you thought were dead.

Over a 26-year period (1987 to 2013), Jody Watley has had 16 hits on the Hot 100 charts, the R&B charts, or the U.S. Dance Charts (often two or all of those simultaneously.) But Jody was working hard for her money long before that.

jody watley

At 14, she was a popular member of the television show Soul Train. She and fellow dancer, Jeffrey Daniel, were picked to be a part of the group Shalamar which was created by Soul Train mastermind, Don Cornelius. Jody was a member of the group from 1977 to 1983. During that period, Shalamar had 5 top ten hits on the R&B charts. Of course, after the split, Jody continued showing her skills (and they did pay the bills.) In 2014, she won the rights to Shalamar and plans on “rebranding” the group sans the original lineup.

While we wait for that new Shalamar music to drop, let’s go back to post-Shalamar Watley, to her first single off her debut self-titled album, when she was hunting for love…

 

Is there a more definitively summer song than Coolio‘s “Fantastic Voyage”? On this very date in 1994, Coolio released his debut album, It Takes a Thief. The album would reach number 8 in the U.S. and that very single I previously mentioned would not only become a road-trip staple and summer jam, it would reach number 3 on the charts and be certified two-times platinum.

coolio

The talented rapper would follow up Thief with another classic (song and album), Gangsta’s Paradise, which would confirm his place in music history (and in parody by Weird Al Yankovic‘s “Amish Paradise.”) But for now, come along and ride on this fantastic voyage from July 19, 2017.

 

Andy Bell and Vince Clarke know something about music. The duo–better known as Erasure–have been churning out synthpop hits for more than 30 years. They remain artists who know how to craft songs that are both interesting and entertaining. And, like the best artists working, their sound is uniquely their own. You know an Erasure song when you hear it. And their 1986 debut album, Wonderland, remains a personal favorite.

erasure

They wouldn’t have a studio album chart in the U.S. until two albums later–1988’s The Innocents–which featured the track “Chains of Love.” Of course, if you were a fan, you didn’t need a chart position to know them. Wonderland saunter into the U.S. via dance clubs (the group’s singles are not just great the first time out, but also the second as dance remixes.) So it’s no surprise that, regardless of charting in the U.S., you’ve likely heard “Oh L’amour” from that debut album.

Wonderland is, IMHO, a phenomenal debut album, and you should check it out. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite songs off the album, which was not released as a single but perfectly encapsulates the time and vibe while remaining singularly Erasure.

You know those artists who are really talented at a really young age? The ones who make you–regardless of your age–feel as though you’ve wasted your life? Let’s talk about Tevin Campbell, shall we?

Tevin released 4 studio albums from 1991 to 1999. His debut, T.E.V.I.N., reached number 38 on the U.S. charts (#5 on the R&B charts), and the first single from that album, “Round and Round,” reached number 12 on the charts (3 on the R&B charts.) At the time the single was released (1990), Tevin was 14. Do you remember what you were doing when you were 14? I was reading comic books and popping zits in the mirror.

tevin campbell

Oh, and did I mention that Tevin’s single was produced by Prince? Yes, that Prince. Anyway, while I evaluate my life choices, enjoy a really great song by a really talented kid (now adult).

 

 

There are bands and then there are SUPER bands. Genesis flies confidently in the latter category, its cape flapping in the breeze. With a slightly rotating roster, the band has been around since it formed in 1967, releasing 15 studio albums through 1997 and selling about 21.5 million albums worldwide.

genesis peter gabriel

And did I mention the members? Maybe you’ve heard of Peter Gabriel? He and fellow original bandmates Mike Rutherford, Chris Stewart, Tony Banks, & Anthony Phillips, met in school and began writing music. All would later go on to successful solo careers. Oh, and in the late 70s, Gabriel would leave and be replaced by then-Genesis-drummer (a guy you might know), Phil Collins, who would sing lead on the bands 1976 album A Trick of the Tail.

genesis confusion

Fast forward to 1986 when the band (still led by Collins) would release its biggest hit to date, Invisible Touch. The album spawned five top-five singles in the U.S. including the incredible “Land of Confusion” with its political themes and a music video you must see if you haven’t.  “Confusion” was the third single released, and on its b-side was another great song, “Feeding the Fire.” So without further confusion, let’s feed the fire…of your desire. For more Genesis. Enjoy!

It was the middle of the second-to-last summer of the 90s, and we couldn’t get enough of these songs on this week in 1998. (Don’t forget, you need to have your Spotify on to enjoy these songs in full–and support artists making $$ for their work!)

The Goo Goo Dolls had a hold on the Alternative Charts with their hit “Iris”…

If your grooves came from the Adult Contemporary charts, Shania Twain was reminding us–but mostly me (in my dreams)–that I was still the one…

Collin Raye was having an odd feeling at number 1 on the Country charts…

We were basking in Shawn Christopher‘s “Sweet Freedom” on the dance floors…

And while the album may have been Brandy‘s Never Say Never, Monica had something to say about a certain boy. Their disagreement would not only be the number one R&B/Hip-Hop track of the week, but it would hold onto the tippy top of the Billboard Hot 100 for ten solid weeks. Whose is he? Who cares, as long as these two keep making music!

In 1989, a thriller called Tequila Sunrise hit the big screens and it was filled to the brim with a host of talents–Michelle Pfeiffer, Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell, and Raul Julia. It made a lot of money, although the critics didn’t love it, but then, it probably wasn’t made for them…it was for you and me.

Tequila-sunrise001

What a film like this makes me want (besides tequila) is a good love theme. The soundtrack was already bursting at the seams with its own star power–The Everly Brothers, The Beach Boys, Duran Duran, and Bobby Darrin, for starters. But it was one song in particular–a song so full of star power that it was destined to soar straight up the charts and into our hearts. The song featured the glorious rockers Ann Wilson (Heart) and Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and it was co-written by none other than Richard Marx (oh, I’ve got a lot of wonderful blogs about Richard Marx coming, just you wait)! So, before you burst (or take one more sip of tequila), have a listen to the song that reached number 6 on the Billboard 100, and remember why we love to love love themes.

 

Any of my UK friends remember this very July 16, 1984? Followup question: Do I have any UK friends? If you do remember that day, it’s because you’d probably just purchased the incredible debut album Diamond Life from the phenomenal band, Sade, (which included lead singer Sade.) Confused? Don’t be. It’s rather simple!

sade

The singer, Sade, formed a band with a host of talented folks–Stuart Matthewman, Andrew Hale, Paul Denman, and Paul Cook–and they called themselves Sade.

The point is, our wonderful friends across the pond had the distinct pleasure of purchasing Sade’s debut album on this very date while Americans would have to wait until February of the following year. But it was worth it, for the album’s single, “Smooth Operator”–released last, probably about the the time the album dropped stateside–would shoot up the charts to number 1 and ensure that this host of smooth operators would continue to produce great music.

If you’re not still scratching your head at that first part, I present the first single from that debut album, “Your Love is King.”

As I lie in bed next to my better half, I wondered, “Could one conceivably go six years without ever getting out of bed?” and further, “How would they get the crane into the bedroom to remove my gigantic, bloated corpse?” As we drift in and out of sleep, we listened to some 80s music pumping from Alexa nearby (we’re even too lazy to turn on our own music and/or lights.) It was a classic song by Golden Earring that would finally get us moving…

golden earing

I remembered much less about the group than my beloved. Thankfully, the internet gods informed me that they are a Dutch band who have released 25 (!!) studio albums from 1977 to 2016. Their biggest U.S. hits came with 1973’s Moontan and 1982’s Cut; however, in the Netherlands, most of their albums have charted, with seven reaching number one, including the 2015 album Tits ‘n Ass.

But it was this 1982 single, off of Cut, that would reach number 10 in the U.S. and, more importantly, get me out of bed this morning. Check out “Twilight Zone.” And get up already, before I send in the crane.

For those of you with the classic 9-5 life, your weekend has arrived (and for the rest of us in the service industry, “what’s a weekend?”) Either way, at some point, I hope you’re going to get ready to go out. And I further hope that you’ll need a soundtrack with which to get ready to (or vacuum in high heels or make spaghetti in your underwear…I’m not here to judge.)

animotion

zztop

I offer for your enjoyment, the first of what I hope to be many mixtapes utilizing that handy-dandy thank-you-Sesame-Street tool known as the alphabet! I’ve compiled a list of some great rock/pop artists from the 80s, one for every letter of the alphabet. (For you finicky folks and perfectionists, I’ve gone with first names where it’s a singular artist and I’ve ignored the articles “a/an” and “the.”) But rules be damned! I’m taking you from Animotion to ZZ Top, and you never have to leave your house. Fire up the spaghetti pot, take off your pants, and press play! (Make sure your app is open on your computer or phone to hear the full versions!)