Monday, June 26, 2017

Debbie Gibson - 'Out of the Blue'-Era 7-Inch Singles: A's and B's (1987-88)


If you were tuned into Top 40 radio 30 years ago, you would have been catching your first earful of a new singer-songwriter named Debbie Gibson. The Long Island-bred musical prodigy was just 16 years old at the time, but she was writing her own songs and burning up the charts with the first of a bunch of hit singles, "Only In My Dreams."

"Only In My Dreams" had actually come out in Dec. 1986 as a 12-inch single, but it didn't hit the Top 40 until the 7-inch was released in March of 1987. By May 9, 1987 it had made the Hot 100 (click on Billboard chart graphic at right) and it eventually got to #4 by early summer. Depending on your disposition, Gibson's brand of chirpy, ultra-commercial freestyle dance music was either pure pap or pure pop. I fall into the latter camp. I think her music helped define '80s pop, much the way girl groups defined early '60s music.

Gibson's chart run wasn't long, but it definitely left an impression on the music biz because she influenced the scads of teen-pop singers who ruled the charts a decade later. It's hard to believe now that Britney Spears came along only eleven years after Gibson. I was young then and time moved slower, so the chart reins of each seemed as if they were from two completely different lifetimes.

This collection features Gibson's first five singles and their flip sides. And by that I mean the actual 7-inch singles. These rips are from 45s that are part of my personal collection. They're presented along with high-quality scans of the discs and picture sleeves (including the rare sleeve for the "Staying Together" 45). None of the B-Sides have ever come out on CD and most are specific to the 45 record. Only one of them appeared on one of Gibson's 12-inch singles (which I compiled here).

All of these records have that classic trebly, compressed 45 record sound, which was designed so these songs would "pop" when on radio. This collection should accurately capture what all of us from that era were hearing when we tuned into the local Top 40 station.

Track notes:


1. Only In My Dreams
The original vinyl 45 of Gibson's first single has mix that's different than the LP/CD version. For starters, some of the percussion sounds are panned right instead of centered and in the intro, while the synth sounds themselves are different and much thinner. Also, the electric rhythm guitar is mixed way down. Producer Fred Zarr must have beefed up the backing track for the LP, which came out a few months later, in Aug. 1987. There are also a couple of elements here that aren't on the LP version. First, there's echo on the last few vocal ad libs during the solo. Second, the fade includes some sax playing that was nixed when they mixed it for the album.

2. Only In My Dreams (Dub)
This is a  bare-bones remix/restructuring of the A-Side sans the lead vocal. This mix is unique to this single and never made it onto a 12-inch single.

3. Shake Your Love
Here's the 45 version of Gibson's signature song, which is pretty much the same as the LP version. But since this is directly from the single, it's a bit more trebly and effervescent than what you now get on the CD.

4. Shake Your Love (Bad Dubb Version)
This B-Side is less hard to find than the others because it was also put on the 12-inch single. This is actually a pretty good electronic freestyle groove; they take the song apart and reassemble it into something else entirely. I'll bet this got at least some play in dance clubs at the time.

5. Out Of The Blue
It's hard to tell if this is a slightly different mix than the LP version or if the mastering and compression make it seem different. The high-hat is more trebly here and it's panned center instead of center-right. Also, the track has less reverb -- something that's especially apparent during the guitar solo, which is more in-your-face here. Conversely, the bell-like keyboard sounds during the verses aren't as prominent. Finally, the backing vocalists on the chorus are more prominent here. At the time, this became Gibson's biggest hit to date, getting to #3.

6. Out Of The Blue (Dub Edit aka Edited Dub)
This one is called "Dub Edit" on the sleeve and "Edited Dub" on the label. So, we'll go with both titles here. Unlike the previous B-Sides, this one doesn't have any fancy electronics or cut-and-paste editing. Instead, it's a pretty straightforward edition of the backing track with vocals removed and keyboards replacing parts of the vocal melody. There's also more guitar at the end.

7. Foolish Beat
Gibson's first #1 single is the same as it is on her LP. She produced this herself and remains the youngest artist to write, produce, and sing a #1 single. After George Michael died, she confirmed something I'd long suspected by saying this song was inspired by "Careless Whisper," right down to taking the song title from a line in the second verse, as opposed to the chorus.

8. Foolish Beat (Instrumental)
A Lite Jazz reworking of the A-Side. It features Spanish-styled acoustic guitar and saxophone in place of the vocal (which makes a surprise appearance when the title comes up in the lyrics). As Lite Jazz goes, this is pretty impressive and in some ways as good if not better than the A-Side.

9. Staying Together
For Gibson's fifth and final single from her first album, she re-cut the vocal track. Because of that, Gibson and Zarr (who co-produced) had to give the song a new mix. The biggest difference between this and the LP version (besides the vocal) is that the single has a much heavier bass sound. In fact, it sound to me like they took the twangy synth bass from the album version and layered it with another, deeper bass sound. This might not seem a big deal now, but in that era, the "stacking" of electronic sounds using MIDI was considered cutting-edge.

They also did some tweaking of the drum sounds, most notably altering the sound of the snare drum (MIDI again!). The tambourine that was featured on every other snare drum beat is also brought down in the mix and panned over to the right (instead of dead center).

Finally, the single version runs at a slightly faster tempo and it includes an extra out-chorus before the end. The extra chorus comes in at the 3:30 mark and gives Gibson the chance to do some high-pitched vocal ad libs. All of this makes the single around 15 seconds longer than the LP version, which is weird because singles are usually edited down. Maybe this is why "Staying Together" became Gibson's first effort to miss the Top 10. It only rise to #22 in summer 1988. Then again, five hit singles from one LP is an achievement for any artist, so you can't expect everything to be a grand slam.

10. Staying Together (Dub Edit)
This "Dub Edit" is different than the "Dub Version" on the 12-inch single, which runs over a minute longer. This one is pretty much the single mix without the lead vocal. They did, however, leave in all the backing vocals plus Gibson's harmony vocal, so anyone who wants to sing lead over this should have an easy time. Maybe they should have called it "Karaoke Edit."

Before I sign off, I want to mention that Gibson is still active in the music scene, despite being diagnosed with Lyme Disease a few years ago. Her big appearance this summer will be headlining Brooklyn, New York's Unicorn Carnival, a multi-artist music festival that will take place Saturday, July 8, 1-9 p.m. The festival will be held at Greenwood Beach at Coney Art Walls. Just Google the festival for ticket info.  Update: I just read on Gibson's Facebook page that this festival is being postponed until September and she now won't be there when it happens. Oh well.

Related posts (i.e. the largest collection of Debbie Gibson rarities on the Web):
Debbie Gibson - 12-Inch Singles (1986-88)
Various Artists - The Songs Debbie Gibson Gave Away (1988-92) 
Debbie Gibson - The Alternate Electric Youth (1989)
Debbie Gibson - Rarities (1990-1999)
Debbie Gibson - Acoustic Live (1991) 
Chris Cuevas - Somehow, Someway (1991) 
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 1 (2004)
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 2 (2005)

Track list:
1. Only In My Dreams
2. Only In My Dreams (Dub)
3. Shake Your Love
4. Shake Your Love (Bad Dubb Version)
5. Out Of The Blue
6. Out Of The Blue (Dub Edit aka Edited Dub)
7. Foolish Beat
8. Foolish Beat (Instrumental)
9. Staying Together
10. Staying Together (Dub Edit)

5 comments:

  1. http://www93.zippyshare.com/v/sxaVM7Er/file.html

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  2. You know I love it when you re-visit Debbie :)

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    1. PS, I'm working on an Out Of The Blue 30 project (where I review each song and its success on the date of single release. Can I use some of these scans if I credit you?)

      http://myfizzypop.blogspot.com/2017/05/debbie-gibson-only-in-my-dreams.html

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    2. Sure, use any of them, including the Billboard chart entry. I look forward to reading it. Send me the link and I'll include it as an addendum here if you link to me as well.

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    3. Have added your link into the post :)
      http://myfizzypop.blogspot.com/2017/05/debbie-gibson-only-in-my-dreams.html

      Delete