Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rockwell - Somebody's Watching Me

Today (January 30th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Somebody's Watching Me, the debut studio album from Rockwell. Born Kennedy William Gordy, Rockwell is the son of Motown founder and CEO Berry Gordy. The record went Gold in the US, reaching number 15 on the Billboard Album chart and number 5 on the Billboard R&B chart. It also went to number 52 in the UK and number 34 in Canada.

Side one opens with the title track "Somebody's Watching Me" which tells of the paranoid feelings of someone who believes he is being stalked. Rockwell convinced Michael Jackson, a legendary super-star on his father's label, to do some vocals for the chorus. Another boyhood friend Jermaine Jackson also contributed some backing vocals on the track as well. As the lead single, it was propelled to number 14 in Austria and Italy, number 10 in Australia, number 8 in Poland, number 7 in Norway, number 6 in Ireland and the UK, number 5 in New Zealand, number 4 in Sweden, number 3 in Switzerland and on the US Billboard Dance chart, and number 2 in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and on the US Billboard Hot 100. It went to number 1 in Belgium, France, and Spain and on the US Billboard R&B chart. I remember this one being a huge hit at parties on campus during my freshman year of college; it was definitely a crowd pleaser.

"Obscene Phone Caller", the second single, hit number 79 in the UK and number 35 on the US Billboard Hot 100. This one fittingly follows up the last song with someone getting harassed over the phone by an unidentified party. With all the advances today like caller-ID, etc. this is an example of a long out-dated prank practice.

A cover of the Beatles' 1966 song "Taxman" is next. Released as a single, this mellow version charted at number 88 in the UK.

"Change Your Ways", a song that sounds like a blood-relative to Shalamar's "Dead Giveaway", closes out the first half.

Side two begins with "Runaway", a mid-tempo dance groove about a small-town girl who leaves home only to find things rough on the streets of the big city.

"Wasting Away" talks about those feelings of absence when you are separated from the one you love.

Things slow down with the heartbreaking ballad "Knife". This one definitely shows another side to the singer's voice.

The album closes with "Foreign Country", a tune about traveling abroad.

Despite a huge hit single, Somebody's Watching Me never got much love outside of the original 1984 vinyl release (there are some Asian import CDs floating around though). Once again, I had to turn to YouTube to allow me to sample many of the deeper cuts from the album. Overall, I liked the record. It fell right in line with the mid-80's R&B and dance music that I was into back then. I would like to see this one show up on one of the digital marketplaces for sale at some point.

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