song of the day – “Fool In The Rain” | LED ZEPPELIN | 1980.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”

Folks of a certain age (yours truly included) remember junior high school dances always concluded with the double dose of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.”  Every single dance.  It’s like, in the late 70s and early 80s, there was a DJ requirement to play those two songs back-to-back at the end of every school dance.  Maybe it was also because the combined time of the studio album versions of both songs were 17 minutes long, a good amount of time to get all your albums and shit together, with minimal clean up after the dance was done, so you could zip right out of there.  Unfortunately, for me, it was 17 minutes of much suckage.  I don’t recall this wallflower ever dancing to either of those classics at a junior high dance.

birdvsheaven

“Bird” vs. “Heaven,”or Skynyrd vs. Zep.  For decades, one can’t escape the other. Prolly the way it’ll always be…

It’s funny – I remember my junior high dances way more than my high school dances.  I can’t even remember if “Free Bird” and “Stairway To Heaven” were even played.  I also wonder if this DJ requirement to play both of these songs helped propel them to the top of annual radio station holiday countdowns.  To this day, they both usually find themselves in the Top 10 of every countdown, if not the Top 5 or Top 3.  (I just checked out a recent list by one of Portland, Maine’s Classic Rock stations, and they had “Free Bird” at No. 1, and “Stairway To Heaven” at No. 2.  What rebels.)

What can I say about Led Zeppelin that hasn’t been already said before?  I wouldn’t call them the Godfathers of Heavy Metal (most would say that distinction goes to Black Sabbath), but Led Zep sure did have a hand in it.  They were one of THE BIGGEST Rock groups of all time, and were rightfully inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1995, where, at the museum, Led Zeppelin is stated as being “as influential” in the 1970s as The Beatles were in the 1960s. 

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Any non-believers yet?  Led Zeppelin released just nine studio albums between 1969 and 1982, and every single album went platinum, and every single album reached the Top 10.  Actually, no Led Zep album charted lower than No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s album chart, and that was the first album.  The only albums that didn’t hit No. 1 were their self-titled debut, LED ZEPPELIN IV (this surprised me), and 1982’s CODA, which was released two years after the band broke up, due to the death of drummer John Bonham.

Still some non-believers out there?  You fools!  Four (of nine) Led Zeppelin studio albums (and one box set) have been certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as Diamond certifications.  What qualifies as a Diamond certification?  Sales of more than 10 million copies (with multiple sets counting for each disc in the set).  In the U.S. alone.  These albums are 1969’s LED ZEPPELIN II (12x Platinum), 1971’s LED ZEPPELIN IV (the third biggest-selling albums of all-time here in America, 23x Platinum), 1973’s HOUSES OF THE HOLY (11x Platinum), 1975’s double-album PHYSICAL GRAFFITI (16x Platinum), and 1990’s 4-disc LED ZEPPELIN BOX SET (10x Platinum).

zep box set

London’s Led Zeppelin – singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist / keyboardist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham – had already been around for 11 years when I discovered them in 1979, and it wasn’t “Stairway To Heaven” or “Black Dog” or “Kashmir” or “Whole Lotta Love” that sucked me in – its was all “Fool In The Rain,” from their eighth studio album, IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR.

The album was released in mid-August 1979, and was housed in what looked like a brown paper bag.  I still have mine, though after nearly 40 years, it’s looking a lot like a brown paper bag that’s been around for 40 years.

in thru the paper bag

IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR only took two weeks to reach No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart, and not only spent seven weeks at No. 1, but sold three million copies by the end of September.  Pretty impressive for 1979.  Actually, pretty impressive for 2017 too – a total like that now could land an album at No. 1 for the entire year.

“Fool In The Rain,” the only single released from IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR, was released in early December 1979, more than a month after IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR finished its seven-week run at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart.

in thru the out door

It was not your typical Rockin’ Led Zeppelin song.  According to a piece in ROLLING STONE about the band’s 40 Greatest Songs Of All Time, “Fool In The Rain” (ranked at No. 24) came about when Robert Plant and John Paul Jones head a Samba song while watching the 1978 World Cup, and that influenced the Latin-jam middle section.  Jimmy Page called “Fool In The Rain” “a springboard for what could have been” (of course, referring to the sad death of John Bonham, who died 13 months after the release of IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR).

fool in the rain 2

An Italian version of the “Fool In The Rain” single.

“Fool In The Rain” (musically, one of the best songs I’ve ever heard) is a song about a guy who is supposed to meet up a woman on a particular street corner.  When the woman doesn’t show up, he is disappointed about being stood up.  Well, by the final verse of the song, the guy realizes that he didn’t go to the right place, making him “just a fool waiting on the wrong block.”

fool in the rain 1

The Japanese version of “Fool In The Rain.”

The song only took a couple of weeks to debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, debuting on the last official chart of 1979 at No. 64, and reached the Top 40 in its fourth chart week.  It went on to spend a couple of weeks at its peak position at No. 21 in late February 1980, was the last Led Zeppelin single released commercially (they didn’t release many), and the last (of six) to reach the Top 40.

They say you never forget your first love, and I suppose that could apply to music as well.  I know I’ll be forever grateful that “Fool In The Rain’ was my introduction to Led Zeppelin, and that unlikely hit that turned me on to them for the rest of my life, even if it didn’t work out too well for the guy in the song…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp-LBD_q0sQ

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song of the day – “Ain’t Nobody” | RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN | 1983.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”

I’ve known one Rufus in my lifetime, and that was a sweet dog (a black Lab?) who was the face at one of my early hangouts when I first moved to Portland, Maine in 1994 – Java Joe’s.  Like myself, Java Joe’s has long been removed from Maine’s largest city, though I do love to visit the Forest City when I can.

When I was first introduced to Rufus & Chaka Khan, it wasn’t because of their first (and biggest) Top 40 hit, 1974’s “Tell Me Something Good” (written by Stevie Wonder), it was because of their last  Top 40 hit – “Ain’t Nobody.”

For the longest time – and this still makes me laugh – I always thought Rufus & Chaka Khan were a married couple.  I didn’t know until much later that Rufus was actually a Funk band out of Chicago, and Chaka Khan was their lead singer. 

The band had formed in 1968, but by 1978, tensions were pretty high between the members of Rufus and their lead singer, who was becoming increasingly popular.  In 1983, they released one final album together – a (mostly) live double-album (and ultimate documentary) called STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY. 

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There were four new studio tracks (led by Chaka Khan) included with the live set, and two of those were released as singles.  The first single released was “Ain’t Nobody.”  At the same time, a producer for a new film, BREAKIN’ (a film based around the popular breakdance craze), had heard the song and eventually put the song in the film and on the soundtrack.

breakin

Well, talk about going out on top.  After years of declining record sales and issues between the band and Chaka Khan, “Ain’t Nobody” turned out to be a great hit, and was released shortly after STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY hit the record stores (as they used to say back in the day). 

“Ain’t Nobody” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 on the first day of October 1983, way down at No. 91 (and there were three more debut songs under that!).  For the song’s first six chart weeks, this Funk gem steadily rose up the Hot 100, and in its seventh chart week, blasted onto the Top 40, moving from 43-29.  It was already Rufus & Chaka Khan’s highest-charting single since 1975’s Top 5 hit, “Sweet Thing.”

In a weird chart quirk, “Ain’t Nobody” stayed at No. 29 the following week, but starting moving back up the week after.  In December 1983, it spent three weeks at its peak position of No. 22 and departed the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-February 1984 after 19 weeks.

ain't nobody

Over on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, “Ain’t Nobody” became the band’s fifth and final No. 1 song, and though it only spent a week at No. 1 there, it was that chart’s sixth-biggest song of 1983.  On BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, it reached No. 6.

Around the globe, “Ain’t Nobody” was a somebody in the U.K., where it reached No. 8, and a No. 36 chart peak in the Netherlands.  A 1989 remix of “Ain’t Nobody” took the song to new heights around the globe, reaching No. 6 in the U.K., No. 8 in Ireland, No. 9 in Germany, and as part of the entire LIFE IS A DANCE: THE REMIX PROJECT album, it reached No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.

life is a dance

NERDY FUN FACT: David “Hawk” Wolinski, who wrote “Ain’t Nobody,” had threatened to give the song to Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones (who really wanted the song) if the band’s label, Warner Bros., didn’t release it as the first single. 

I’ll never understand why these recording acts always had to fight with the record labels for what they believed in!  I’d like to think this kind of shite still doesn’t happen, but at the very least, it’s a whole different ball game now, and more people than evah are releasing their own music, and on their own terms, which I think is fan-fucking-tastic!

After winning a Grammy Award for “Ain’t Nobody” in 1984, Chaka Khan and Rufus went their separate ways, but the legacy of “Ain’t Nobody” lives on 33 years later.  It’s been covered an incredible amount of times, including covers by the likes of George Michael (on his 1991 “Cover To Cover” tour), Amii Stewart, Klymaxx, LL Cool J (for the funny 1996 film, BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA), Peabo Bryson, KT Tunstall and Mary J. Blige. 

ll cool j

In 2015, a German music producer and DJ by the name of Felix Jaehn released a cover, featuring young British vocalist by the name of Jasmine Thompson, and the song was called “Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better).”  And throughout the globe outside of North America, people did love it better than the original.  It reached No. 1 in at least eight countries, and the Top 10 in at least another 12. 

My favorite cover is actually part of a “pseudo mashup” by U.K. producer and remixer Richard X, with vocals by the English-Irish Pop group, Liberty X.  They used a sample of The Human League’s “Being Boiled” against a cover of “Ain’t Nobody,” and called it, appropriately enough, “Being Nobody.”  It was (and still is) brilliant, and was a Top 10 hit in the U.K. and Ireland in 2003.

being nobody

A couple of years before that, when my STUCK IN THE 80s radio show on WMPG-FM was just five years old, I did a countdown of the BEST 100 SONGS OF THE 80s, getting feedback from listeners, station volunteers and folks in the College Music industry (it was also my first year of 10 as WMPG Music Director).  “Ain’t Nobody” came in at No. 20 and that ranking surprised me the most out of any other on the list. 

Over time, I realized that ranking shouldn’t surprise me.  It’s an incredible song, and though it came at the end of a creative union between a well-respected Funk band and one of the best R&B and Dance singers ever, ain’t nobody gonna tell me that “Ain’t Nobody” doesn’t mean anything in the history of Funk and Dance and R&B and Pop.  Because it does.

“And now we’re flyin’ through the stars / I hope this night will last forever…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M26WD4CidnM

rufus n chaka

song of the day – “You Can Call Me Al” | PAUL SIMON | 1986 / 1987.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”

Throughout the years, whether it’s because of an inclusion in a movie or a commercial or a TV show, or a radio station rediscovered it and started playing it again, songs sometimes have more one chart life.  The best example of this is Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” which reached No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 twice.  In its initial run, the dance craze favorite spent one week on top in September 1960, and again in January 1962 for two weeks.  No other song has done that here in America.  And, because of its two chart runs that ended at No. 1, “The Twist” is ranked at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 for all time.

twist

CassingleFrontCoverSm

The 1989 cassette single (or “cassingles” – remember those?!) for “In Your Eyes.”

I believe all decades have had songs re-enter the chart with new chart runs, but I think no other decade has as many as the 80s did.  There were “second-chance singles” (as I like to call them) that went to No. 1 on the Hot 100, like “At This Moment” by Billy Vera & The Beaters and “When I’m With You” by Sheriff, “second-chance singles” that were “(real) one-hit wonders,” like Sheriff (again), Benny Mardones (“Into The Night”) and Moving Pictures (“What About Me”),  and songs that benefited from appearing in movies, like Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (…SAY ANYTHING) and Billy Idol’s “Hot In The City” (BIG).

Then you have songs that were hits in other decades and, also due to their inclusions in films, were reissued and hit the chart again, like The Beatles’ “Twist And Shout” (featured in both FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF and BACK TO SCHOOL), Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” (from the incredible film of the same name), and The Contours’ “Do You Love Me” (from DIRTY DANCING).

Prince’s “1999” reached the Hot 100 four time in three decades, and reached the Top 40 three of those times.  In its original 1982 chart run (as the debut single from the album of the same name), it stopped at No. 44.  After “Little Red Corvette” reached No. 6, “1999” was re-released and reached No. 12 in 1983.  When the calendar changed from 1998 to 1999 (even though the song wasn’t about the year 1999), it re-entered the Top 40 for one week at No. 40.  And, as BILLBOARD has been doing for several years now, a number of Prince songs re-entered the Hot 100 following his sad passing in April 2016.  In its fourth Hot 100 appearance, “1999” reached No. 27.

1999

These “second-chance singles” don’t always chart higher than their original chart runs (like the Moving Pictures, Peter Gabriel and Billy Idol singles mentioned above), but lots of times they do.  UB40’s “Red Red Wine” originally peaked at No. 34 in March 1984, but in a re-release (after being performed at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Concert in 1988), the album version of their Neil Diamond cover spent a week at No. 1 in October 1988.  And, the original version of The Pointer Sisters’ classic, “I’m So Excited,” stalled at No. 30 in late 1982, but after being remixed for their 1984 album, BREAK OUT, the song was reissued and did break out, reaching No. 9 on the Hot 100 about two years later.

red red wine

And, sometimes, “second-chance singles” get another shot at the Hot 100 for multiple reasons.  In the case of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” its success can be attributed to growing praise and sales for its brilliant parent album, GRACELAND (and its big Album Of The Year Grammy Award), and a smart change in music videos.

“You Can Call Me Al” (a song about someone going through a midlife crisis), the first single released from GRACELAND, debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 83 in early August 1986, about a month before the album was released.  The original video for “You Can Call Me Al” was a performance Paul Simon gave (in the perspective of a video monitor) during a monologue when he hosted SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. 

graceland

Well, Paul Simon wasn’t happy with the video, which didn’t seem to attract many fans to buy the record, and GRACELAND had just been released (and wasn’t the brilliant classic most people associate with it now).  “You Can Call Me Al” spent a couple of weeks at No. 44 in September and October, and dropped off the chart in November 1986 after 14 weeks.

A new video was commissioned, and Paul Simon stayed with his friend and SNL creator, Lorne Michaels, to put together another video.  This one (one of my all-time favorite music videos) pairs Paul with another friend (and SNL alum), Chevy Chase, who lip-syncs Paul Simon’s vocals, leaving Paul to twiddle his thumbs, although Paul ends up lip-syncing his backing vocals throughout, and in the last 30 seconds of the video, the focus switches from Chevy to Paul (although Chevy almost takes Paul’s head off with a trumpet).  It’s an incredibly funny and smartly done video, and I think it resonated with fans, MTV watchers, and radio stations alike. 

al video

Paul Simon and his friend, Chevy Chase, from the hilarious video for “You Can Call Me Al.”

Between a hilarious new music video and a big Grammy win for GRACELAND in late February 1987, “You Can Call Me Al” re-entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late March 1987 at No. 92.  About a month later, it surpassed its original No. 44 peak, and reached the Top 40.  About a month after that, it spent a couple of weeks at its (new) peak position of No. 23, departing the chart in early July 1987, with a total of 27 weeks spent on the Hot 100 (strangely enough, in its highe-charting second run, it spent one less week than the first chart run).  To date, it’s Paul Simon’s last Top 40 hit here in America.

you can call me al

Around the globe, “You Can Call Me Al” said, “You can call me a big hit in” Australia, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa (where it reached No. 2), plus the U.K. (No. 4), the Netherlands (No. 5), Finland (No. 9), France (No. 16) and Canada (No. 19). hyde park

Paul Simon is 75 now, and still very much active in the music scene.  In 2016, he released his 13th studio album, STRANGER TO STRANGER, which reached No. 3 on BILLBOARD’s Album chart, his highest-charting album since GRACELAND went to No. 3 three decades ago.  And, just this month, he released his fourth live solo album, PAUL SIMON – THE CONCERT IN HYDE PARK.

I don’t know what it is, but I love the idea of songs getting a second chance – for whatever reason – to do better on the chart than they did before.  And, though sometimes it doesn’t work out, the times it does happen can be pretty amazing.  And other times you just need a gifted comedic actor and friend to play off against, who’s a full foot taller than you to create a really fucking hilarious music video to help out a really cool song about trying to cope with middle age.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uq-gYOrU8bA

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song of the day – “One Way Or Another” | BLONDIE | 1979.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014 (three years ago today), Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”

I remember hearing about Casey’s death during a trial run at a commercial radio station out of my hometown, Bar Harbor, Maine.  I was pre-recording some voice tracks to be played on the air that Sunday afternoon, and saw it pop up on the news feed on a computer in the station’s main on-air studio.  My heart sank.  I knew Casey hadn’t been well, but I had hoped he’d live much longer than he did, though 82 was a long life, and what a life it was.

Due to a communication snafu, it never worked out with that radio station, but at the very least, I got to at pay tribute to him on the air at that station, if only for a moment.  It’s the least I could do for a man who did so much for me – through music – all those years ago.  Like John Hughes, Casey Kasem is one of the most-influential people for me with music that I DIDN’T meet.

A couple of Sundays later, I did get to pay tribute to Casey with the first of three annual 2-hour radio shows in his memory on STUCK IN THE 80s, and that featured nothing but music from 1979 through 1989 and reached the American Top 40.  My theme song for each annual show was M’s No. 1 hit from 1979, “Pop Muzik,” which, to this day, I maintain is a song that epitomized the music of a decade – NOT the decade it came from, but the next one.  And, I couldn’t think of a better name for these tribute shows than LONG DISTANCE DEDICATION.

long distance dedication 6.29.14

One of the artists played on that show (and many other shows over the course of STUCK IN THE 80s’ 20+ years) was Blondie, who just released their eleventh studio album, the excellent and Rockin’ POLLINATOR.

pollinator

By early 1979, Blondie had released three albums, with the latest one, PARALLEL LINES (which was released in September 1978), slowly climbing the BILLBOARD album chart.  Blondie’s self-titled 1976 debut album didn’t even reach the album chart here in the U.S., and their second album, PLASTIC LETTERS (released in February 1978), reached No. 72. 

The first U.S. single released from PARALLEL LINES – “I’m Gonna Love You Too” – ran parallel to the album’s September 1978 release, but the only places it became a hit was in Belgium and in The Netherlands.  Second single “Hanging On The Telephone” is a revered Punk / New Wave classic, but again, it failed to make a dent here in America, though it was a Top 5 U.K. hit.

Though it may sound like a cliché sometimes, like the saying goes, “third time’s a charm,” and in the case of singles released from PARALLEL LINES, the ol’ saying proved to be right for Blondie to finally break through in their homeland of the U.S. of A.

parallel lines

“Heart Of Glass” was released in January 1979, and by mid-February, it debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 way down at No. 84.  10 weeks later, it spent a lone week at No. 1, helped PARALLEL LINES climb to No. 6 on the BILLBOARD album chart (becoming their first Platinum album), and reached No. 1 in at least seven other countries – and in the process, united both Punk and Disco fans alike – no easy trick.  I can’t think of any other song that truly did that.

heart of glass

After the worldwide success of “Heart Of Glass,” Blondie’s record label, Chrysalis, released “Sunday Girl” in May 1979…but not here in the U.S., despite the fact “Sunday Girl” spent three weeks at No. 1 in the U.K. and four weeks at No. 1 in Ireland.  (Thanks Chrysalis, you crusty jugglers!  Just because the first two singles didn’t work out here didn’t mean “Sunday Girl” wouldn’t have charted!)

sunday girl

For the fourth single released here in the U.S. and in Canada, Chrysalis released “One Way Or Another,” a song inspired by one of Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriends who had stalked her after they broke up.  (Boy, you don’t wanna mess with Debbie, man!  I believe it when she says she’ll “get’cha, get’cha, get’cha, get’cha!”)

“One Way Or Another” (which, oddly enough, was NOT released as a single outside of the U.S. or Canada) was more Punk and Rock-friendly than Disco friendly, although I don’t know anyone in the ‘Verse who wouldn’t want to dance to this gem.  It’s infectious and instantly invites you to move.

blondie-1

Debuting on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early June 1979 (with “Heart Of Glass” still in the Top 15), “One Way Or Another” found its way onto the Top 40 four weeks after its debut, entering the Top 40 at the end of June at No. 35.  It inched up another notch the following week, and then for some weird reason, fell out of the Top 40 down to No. 41. 

In an even weirder chart move (and one I’m sure Casey Kasem loved to talk about), the following week, “One Way Or Another” roared back into the Top 40 from No. 41 to No. 29, a feat more commonplace in the Digital Age of the Hot 100 today, but back in 1979, to make such a dramatic turnaround on the chart was quite rare.

And that would be the last of the rare, big moves for “One Way Or Another,” as two weeks later, in early August 1979, it would spend the first of two weeks at No. 24.  Two weeks after departing the Top 40, it was gone from the Hot 100 completely.  In Canada, “One Way Or Another” fared better, reaching No. 14.

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

The 1979 poster of Debbie Harry (photo taken by Chris Stein) that has eluded me for almost 40 years now…

The legacy of “One Way Or Another” didn’t stop there, though.  It’s been covered since by the likes of The Black Eyed Peas, Alvin And The Chipmunks, the cast of GLEE, and in 2013, the popular British boy band, One Direction, who did a mashup of “One Way Or Another” with “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones – and titled “One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks)” – and released a single in support of Comic Relief.  It was, like One Direction and Blondie before them, a global sensation, and reached No. 1 in at least five countries.  In the process, the original “One Way Or Another” squeaked onto the U.K. singles chart (through digital sales) at No. 98, its first appearance on that chart, and not bad for a 34-year-old song.

“One Way Or Another” has recently been in a number of commercials as of late (I think I heard it in two different commercials back-to-back, in fact), and in ROLLING STONE’s 2006 list of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, “One Way Or Another” was ranked at No. 298.

chris debbie clem 2013

Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Clem Burke, 2013.

Though I didn’t initially warm up to “One Way Or Another” as I did with “Heart Of Glass” or “Dreaming,” which would chart a couple of months after “One Way Or Another,” the song grew on me (how could it not?), and I really loved seeing Debbie and Blondie belt this out when my dear friend Shawn (formerly of Maine and NYC) and I saw them in New York back in October 2013.

blondie wkrp 1

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention part of the reason PARALLEL LINES did as well as it did.  The album was released the same month as my second all-time favorite TV show, WKRP IN CINCINATTI.  The show was instrumental in not only the success of the album, but its use of “Heart Of Glass” really helped it to become the big hit it was, and the band’s record label, Chrysalis, presented the producers of WKRP with an authentic Gold RIAA record award for PARALLEL LINES, and it hung on the wall of the station’s “bullpen” for the remainder of the series.  (While I don’t entirely forgive Chrysalis for not releasing “Sunday Girl” here, I thought it was a rare and wonderful and unusual gesture presenting a fictional radio station with a real Gold record.)

blondie wkrp 2

You know, some fans of Casey Kasem and AT40 might disagree, but in listening to some of Casey’s older 1970s AMERICAN TOP 40 countdowns on iHeart Radio (he started AT40, appropriately enough, on July 4, 1970, at the age of 38), I think Casey really started hitting his stride with AT40 in 1979 (though I may be biased, considering that’s the year I really started getting into music).  Maybe that’s what compelled me to keep tuning in week after week, year after year, and as often as I can, three years after his death, on the Interweb.

at80s2I’ve been involved with mostly community and college radio for the better part of 30 years, and in my short-lived time on a commercial station here in Central Maine back in 2008, one of my all-time proudest moments in radio is going on at 10:00 on Saturday mornings, following my radio hero, Casey Kasem, and rebroadcasts of AMERICAN TOP 40.

Though I’ve preferred Alternative, New Wave and Alt-Dance to Top 40 for a long time now, I don’t think I would have ever have had the appreciation for music I do today if it hadn’t been for Casey Kasem.

I miss you, Casey, wherever you are, and I promise to keep reaching for those stars…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m74w9x07DhU

one way or another

  

song of the day – “Take Me With U” | PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION featuring APOLLONIA | 1985.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued 2 it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure 2 this day.  4 me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks 2 the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, 4 the entire month of June, I will B highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way 2 No. 1. 

As Casey used 2 say on AT40, “And on we go!”

When my radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s, had its final show on my 50th birthday – and during the Maine Blizzard Of 2017 (Hope, Shawn and I had 2 literally shut WMPG-FM down afterwards; Shawn: “We’re rockin’ so hard, the station cannot handle it anymore!”; Hope: “No one can follow U Ron!”). 

shawn, hope + me

With the 2017 Maine blizzard in the window behind us, from L to R that’s Shawn, Hope and yours truly all sporting STUCK IN THE 80s T-shirts on the final STUCK broadcast on WMPG-FM, 2.12.17.

One of the songs I chose 4 the last show was “Take Me With U” by Prince & The Revolution featuring Apollonia.  As I mentioned on the last show, and will re-mention here (if I haven’t already on the bloggy thing), it’s one of my all-time favorite Prince songs that DOESN’T get nearly enough love as it should.

purple rain

Released as the last of five singles from 1984’s PURPLE RAIN and written by Prince (of course), “Take Me With U” was a duet between Prince and Apollonia Kotero, who played Prince’s girlfriend in PURPLE RAIN.  “Take Me With U” was initially 2 have appeared on the APOLLONIA 6 album (released on October 1, 1984, and featured one song from PURPLE RAIN – “Sex Shooter,” which Apollonia 6 played in the film). 

But, with Prince being rightfully particular about his songs (4 example, all of his videos that went back up after he died have all pretty much been removed from YouTube), he pulled the song off of the APOLLONIA 6 album, and included it on PURPLE RAIN. 

prince + the revolution

All of the singles from (and of course, the entire album) PURPLE RAIN were sensational, but unlike the other singles released from the soundtrack, “Take Me With U” had this really cool vibe 2 it, featuring a drum solo and finger cymbals at the beginning and the end of the song.  This Psychedelic-y style might have actually been the precursor 2 his next album, AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY, especially on the singles “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life.”

“Take Me With U” was released on January 25, 1985, exactly seven months after the release of the soundtrack 2 PURPLE RAIN, and almost exactly six months after the release of the film, and it only took a couple of weeks 4 the single 2 debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (at No. 61).

take me with u

Reaching the Top 40 of the Hot 100 in just its fourth chart week, “Take Me With U” became the fifth Top 40 single from PURPLE RAIN, and, at that point, Prince became just the seventh recording artist in history (if my math is correct) 2 have five or more Top 40 hits released from one album on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, following Michael Jackson’s THRILLER, Lionel Richie’s CAN’T SLOW DOWN, Billy Joel’s AN INNOCENT MAN, SPORTS by Huey Lewis & The News, Tina Turner’s PRIVATE DANCER, and the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, and her wonderful SHE’S SO UNUSUAL.  (The Cars would join that group a week later with “Why Can’t I Have You,” the excellent and highly-underrated fifth single from their fantastic 1984 album, HEARTBEAT CITY.)

“Take Me With U” spent a couple of weeks at No. 25 in late March 1985, and without much fanfare, faded out of the Hot 100 after 12 short weeks.  Over in the U.K., it was a double A-sided single with “Let’s Go Crazy,” and it reached No. 7.  I would like 2 think the folks in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland didn’t just listen 2 “Let’s Go Crazy” (as awesome as that song is), and flipped the record over and really enjoyed “Take Me With U” too.

let's go crazy take me with u

Everyone in The Revolution was involved with this gem, and the unity involved with this song is amazing.  And, 4 those who didn’t already own PURPLE RAIN by the end of January 1985, when “Take Me With U” was released, and were kind enough 2 buy the single anyway, and 2 those radio stations who were kind enough 2 play it, I thank U.  “Take Me With U” is that sorta-forgotten gem (though not by me) that, when U listen 2 it 4 the first time in awhile, U will remember why U loved it all those years ago, and, like me, U will love it 4evah…

“I don’t care where we go / I don’t care what we do / I don’t care pretty baby / Just take me with u…”

prince + apollonia

song of the day – “Not Just Another Girl” | IVAN NEVILLE | 1988.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”

In the Fall of 1988, I heard a song on the radio that sounded pretty cool and reminded me of Huey Lewis.  It turned out not to be Huey, nor did Huey have any connection to the song.  That song was “Not Just Another Girl,” the debut single for Ivan Neville, the son of the amazing Aaron Neville, and the nephew to the members of The Neville Brothers, who actually DID open for Huey Lewis & The News in Portland, Maine back in 1985.  (HA!  See, I knew there was a Huey connection there somewhere!)

if my ancestors

“Not Just Another Girl,” from Ivan’s debut album, IF MY ANCESTORS COULD SEE ME NOW, debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 81 in early October 1988, about two months after Ivan turned 29.  The highest-debuting song on the Hot 100 that week?  “Small World” by Huey Lewis & The News!  Another connection!  I should stop.

Though Huey wasn’t involved, Ivan Neville had some heavy hitters on IF MY ANCESTORS COULD SEE ME NOW, including his dad, Aaron Neville, Jason Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Jim Keltner, Jeff Pocaro of Toto, J.D. Souther, Randy Jackson (of AMERICAN IDOL fame), and Danny Kortchmar, who not only produced the album, but played guitar, keyboards, bass, drum programming, and he was responsible for the sax on “Not Just Another Girl.” 

mystepmotherisanalien-poster

“Not Just Another Girl,” which appeared on the soundtrack to the Dan Aykroyd film, MY STEPMOTHER WAS AN ALIEN (and included the incredible “Pump Up The Volume” by M/A/R/R/S and the Top 10 hit, “Room To Move” by Animotion), reached the Top 40 of the Hot 100 six weeks into its chart run, and spent a week at its peak position of No. 26 in mid-December 1988, and hung around until the day before my 22nd birthday in February 1989.

not just another girl

Ivan Neville had one more Hot 100 hit, with the follow-up single to “Not Just Another Girl” – “Falling Out Of Love,” a duet with the aforementioned Bonnie Raitt, which reached No. 91 in March 1989. 

The New Orleans native released three more solo albums between 1994 and 2004, worked with Keith Richards and several other artists, and in 2003, he formed a Funk and Jam band called Dumpstaphunk (great name).  They are still together and have had three releases to date.

dumpstaphunk

You can also hear Ivan on the fantastic soundtrack to the brilliant 1990 film, PUMP UP THE VOLUME, with “Why Can’t I Fall In Love,” a song that Christian Slater’s on-air character “Happy Harry Hard-On” dedicated to his love interest, Nora (Samantha Mathis):  “I’m gonna cut out now with this unusual song…  I’m dedicating to…  an unusual person…  who makes me feel kind of…  unusual.”

pump_up_the_volume_xlg

Well, I can’t say “Why Can’t I Fall In Love” or Ivan Neville makes me feel kind of unusual, but I can say I really love “Not Just Another Girl,” which didn’t even need a Huey Lewis connection for me to really dig it.  And, for a guy who hasn’t concentrated on hit singles for most of his career, his debut single was pretty awesome…

“She could have been from anywhere / She could have had most anyone / I bet the girls in another world / Not just another girl…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCLTxx2vFbo

ivan neville

song of the day – “The Right Thing” | SIMPLY RED | 1987.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”

Manchester, England’s Simply Red had been together only months before reaching No. 1 worldwide with the wonderful “Holding Back The Tears” in 1985 and 1986.  After that success, and the success of their debut album, PICTURE BOOK, for their second album, MEN AND WOMEN, Simply Red got some shiny new clothes and brought up the level of their Blue-Eyed Soul.

men and women

The first single from MEN AND WOMEN, “The Right Thing,” seemed like quite the right choice as the first single, and to promote their updated look and sound.  Released just before MEN AND WOMEN, “The Right Thing” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at the end of February 1987 at No. 96.

“The Right Thing” made a steady climb up the Hot 100 and in late April 1987, it became the band’s third Top 40 hit here in America in as many tries.  And, for two weeks in mid-to-late May 1987, No. 27 was the right peak for “The Right Thing.”

the right thing

Around the globe, “The Right Thing” reached No. 4 in Belgium, No. 5 in The Netherlands, No. 9 in New Zealand, No. 10 in Switzerland, No. 11 in the U.K., No. 12 in Ireland, No. 17 in Australia, No. 25 in Canada and No. 27 in Germany.

simply red

Although Simply Red had two popular No. 1 songs in the 80s – “Holding Back The Years” and their soulful 1989 cover of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” – they were arguably more popular in their U.K. homeland than here in the U.S.

On the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1986 and 1991, Simply Red had just five Top 40 hits, while in the U.K. between 1985 and 2007, Simply Red had 31 Top 40 hits, 10 of which reached the Top 10, and one of those went to No. 1 – 1995’s “Fairground,” which was sadly not a hit in America.

fairground

By 2010, Simply Red had released 10 studio albums, five compilations, five live albums and countless singles, and singer / songwriter and Simply Red leader Mick Hucknall was the only original member left.

After a needed five-year break between 2010 and 2015, Simply Red returned with seven members (including original Simply Red keyboardist, Ian Kirkham).  They released their first studio album in eight years, titled BIG LOVE, and it was their first studio album with the EastWest record label since the label dropped them in 2000 (Simply Red’s previous three studio albums were self-released).

In 2016, Simply Red kicked off a “25 Years Of Stars Live” tour, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their biggest-ever U.K. album, STARS.  The title track is a longtime personal favorite.  And Simply Red will continue to perform live in 2017.

stars 25

For whatever reason, I have a lot of friends who do not like Simply Red…at all.  But, some do.  I admit here that I am not their biggest fan, but I do love a lot of their music, and out of all the songs that made them famous, the one that had the right stuff was this song.  It’s fun, so damn soulful (especially the 12″ remix), and for me, has exactly “The Right Thing”…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLTJ5ktfyw8

simply red 2