song of the day – “Let’s Dance (Live In Europe)” | TINA TURNER & DAVID BOWIE | 1985 / 1988.

It’s hard to believe that David Bowie has been gone three years today (1/10/2019).  Doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, prolly because I still feel like he’s always here.  And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.  This morning, I read a lovely column from London’s THE INDEPENDENT – “Why David Bowie will never really die.”

bowie handpainted

Columnist Lucy Jones said that “of all the musical legends who have died in the last decade, [David] Bowie feels strangely present and alive, thanks to both the internet and the alternative worlds he created which still exist for his fans…  In breaking his own ‘suburban curse,’ as he put it, Bowie ushered multiple generations of people to do the same.  Often, he wrote about loneliness and isolation, a feeling of falling to Earth and not really knowing what’s going on, and either leaving it there and reveling in nihilism or exploring its treatment: connection…  Essentially, his legacy lives on because he changed the way people felt about themselves and the world.  And not in a flash-in-a-pan way.  When swayed here and there by this and that, I often think of his singularity and force, and ape his spirit to forge ahead.  Be more Bowie.”  Brilliantly said, and absolutely true.  Teenagers across the globe are discovering David Bowie as I type these words, and I think it’s extraordinary. 

Speaking of extraordinary, I can think of at least a couple instances in the 80s where David Bowie changed the lives of extraordinary recording artists – and they both have the same Bowie connection. 

When I saw Duran Duran and Chic in Brooklyn, New York a few years ago, just three months after the sad passing of David Bowie – one of the amazing stories to come out of that show was the story of how, after the early 80s disco backlash, no one wanted to work with Nile Rodgers (crazy, right?).  Nile told everyone in attendance that David Bowie was the first person who wanted to want to work with him in the 80s after the disco backlash.  Not only did Nile Rodgers’ incredible producing efforts give David Bowie one of the biggest albums of his career, it also gave him one of his biggest singles ever, if not the biggest.  And Nile Rodgers didn’t have to look for work again – the work came to him.

nile n david

Nile Rodgers and David Bowie.

Not only did David Bowie change the artistic life of Nile Rodgers, he did the same for Tina Turner.  Before Tina became THE comeback story of the 80s (if not for all-time), Tina was struggling as a solo artist.  She released four solo albums and 11 singles between 1974 and 1979, and out of those, only one album and one single charted low on the respective BILLBOARD charts.

Fast forward to 1983, where, at the insistence of David Bowie, Tina was signed to a singles deal with Capitol Records.  The first single released under this deal was a gorgeous cover of the Al Green classic, “Let’s Stay Together,” her second collaboration with Sheffiield, England New Wavers Heaven 17.

let's stay together

The “Let’s Stay Together” 12″ single.

“Let’s Stay Together” was a huge success across the globe, reaching the Top 10 in Belgium, The Netherlands and New Zealand, and the Top 20 in Finland, Germany and Ireland.  Over in the U.K., it reached No. 6 and was certified Silver (Al Green’s original reached No. 7 there).  Over here in the U.S., “Let’s Stay Together” gave Tina her first solo Top 40 hit on BILLBOARD Hot 100.  It also reached No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart and No. 3 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.

After the success of “Let’s Stay Together,” Capitol Records had to rethink their contract with Tina, and gave her a three-album deal, asking for an album immediately.  That album was PRIVATE DANCER, which reached No. 3 on the BILLBOARD album chart, sold 5 million copies in the U.S. alone and generated three Top 10 hits, including the No. 1 sensation, “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”

tina live

After another Top 5 album, 1986’s BREAK EVERY RULE, Tina Turner released her TINA LIVE IN EUROPE album in 1988, consisting of performances between 1985 and 1987, and featuring the likes of Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams and two songs in 1985 with David Bowie, including “Let’s Dance.”  But there was a sweet twist and a play on the song’s title.

tina n david 1985

Tina Turner and David Bowie, 1985.

Tina and David began their duet with “Let’s Dance,” the 1962 global Top 10 hit by Chris Montez (“Hey baby won’t you take a chance? / Say that you’ll let me have this dance / Well, let’s dance, well, let’s dance…”).  Then, about 75 seconds later, they brilliantly moved from that “Let’s Dance” to Bowie’s No. 1 “Let’s Dance” from 1983, switching off on vocals.  The crowd went nuts for the collaboration and the medley, but I think Tina and David enjoyed it most of all.  You can see it in their faces, it’s beautiful.

let's dance

From the live version of “Let’s Dance,” 1985.

I don’t know how this live medley escaped me for so many years, but luckily Maryhope had introduced this to me years ago, and it’s still one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard.  Thank you, Maryhope!

This morning, I was nearly in tears upon hearing Peter Gabriel’s stunning orchestral version of “Heroes,” and it was as if I had just heard the news about David’s passing, but as the day progressed, I heard this song in my head, and I knew this was the song I wanted to share and to remember David Bowie today.  I’m still smiling from it.  You will too… #BowieForever

bowie

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNvkOLYz9I4

tina david let's dance

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song of the day – “Heart Of Glass” | BLONDIE | 1978 / 1979.

Happy 2019!  I hope this young year is treating you all well so far! 

Today, January 3, 2019, is a special day in music history, as it marks the 40th anniversary of the release of one of the most prolific and most memorable and downright cool singles of all time – “Heart Of Glass” by Blondie.

heart 7inch

The “Heart Of Glass” 7″ single.

Founded by singer Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein back in 1974, Blondie built up a following in places like the U.K. and Australia, but it took the New York Punk and early New Wave band four years and three albums to finally make it in their home country. 

Blondie’s third studio album, PARALLEL LINES, was released in late September 1978, but it took awhile to catch on here in America.  The first two singles off the album, “Picture This” and “Hanging On The Telephone,” were U.K. hits.  By the time “Heart Of Glass” was released on January 3, 1979, Blondie had already picked up three Top 10 U.K. hits out of four chart singles.  Back here in America, Blondie had yet to crack the BILLBOARD Hot 100.

parallel lines

The origins of “Heart Of Glass” began during the first year of Blondie, when Debbie Harry and Chris Stein wrote an early version of the song, called “Once I Had A Love.”  It was a slower version, then more funky than disco-sounding, and it was inspired by the 1974 song “Rock The Boat” by The Hues Corporation, which is regarded by many as the first-ever disco song to ever hit No. 1.

mike n debbie

Mike Chapman and Debbie Harry hamming it up.

When popular producer Mike Chapman came on board to produce PARALLEL LINES, things started coming together for Blondie.  Mike Chapman produced for many successful artists and produced and/or wrote or co-wrote many singles in the 70s and 80s, such as artists like Sweet, Suzi Quatro, The Knack, Tina Turner, and songs like Exile’s “Kiss You All Over,” Nick Gilder’s “Hot Child In The City,” Toni Basil’s “Mickey” (all No. 1 hits), Huey Lewis And The News’ “Heart And Soul,” Bow Wow Wow’s “Do Ya Wanna Hold Me” and Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield”

The early version of “Heart Of Glass” was the last song Blondie presented to Mike Chapman, which appealed to him.  Different versions of the song were tried out, none of them working, and Debbie Harry was getting frustrated.  But Mike Chapman was focused.  He knew the song was something special, or could be.  And he asked her, “Debbie, what kind of music that’s happening right now really turns you on.”  Debbie said, “Donna Summer.”  Then Mike responded, “OK, then how about us treating this song like it was meant for Donna Summer?”  And, by way of the Giorgio Moroder-produced 1977 masterpiece, “I Feel Love” (which Blondie performed in concert for the first time in May 1978, and did again when Maryhope and I saw them in August 2017), “Once I Had A Love” transformed into “Heart Of Glass.”

i feel love

I’m not sure if Mike Chapman or the band knew that “Heart Of Glass” would become a part of music history, because, oddly enough, on the track listing of the album, “Heart Of Glass” was relegated to the (normally filler) fourth song (of six) on Side 2 of PARALLEL LINES.  But, then again, PARALLEL LINES is not something I would call “filler.”

side 2

Maybe the answer of the song’s placement on the album comes from Chris Stein, who didn’t think it would as big as it was.  He once said, “We only did it as a novelty to put more diversity into the album” (which is prolly why it ended up buried on the second side of PARALLEL LINES).

Less than a month after the release of “Heart Of Glass,” fans’ hearts were full of love for the song in the U.K., and it spent the entire month of February 1979 at No. 1 on that singles chart, their first U.K. No. 1 single (of six).

heart of glass video

From the “Heart Of Glass” music video.

Over here in the U.S., Blondie entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for the very first time, as “Heart Of Glass” debuted six weeks after its release, coming in at No. 84. A month later, they blasted into the Top 40, and by early April 1979, had made their way to the Top 10.  By the end of April 1979, “Heart Of Glass” spent its sole week at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, and in the process, united Punk and Disco fans alike – no easy trick.

“Heart Of Glass” found much success outside of the U.K. and the U.S., reaching No. 1 in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand (where it was the No. 1 song of the year), plus the Top 10 in Belgium, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, South Africa and Sweden. 

One piece of singles chart trivia that boggles my mind is the fact that “Heart Of Glass” was not a big hit on the BILLBOARD Dance chart (then known as the Disco Top 80).  It stopped at No. 58 there.  No worries, though, a 1995 remix of “Heart Of Glass” reached No. 7 on the Dance Club Play chart.

heart 12inch

The “Heart Of Glass” 12″ single.

One piece of trivia regarding “Heart Of Glass,” however, I’ll never tire of.  In the first year of my second-favorite TV show ever, WKRP IN CINCINNATI, played “Heart Of Glass” so much on the show, the fictional WKRP was credited on helping the single and PARALLEL LINES do as well as they did, and an official RIAA (Recording Industry Association Of America) Gold record was presented by Blondie’s label, Chrysalis, to show creator Hugh Wilson.  For the show’s second season through the fourth and final season, you can see the Gold record hanging in the station’s “bullpen.”  Pretty damn cool.

wkrp parallel lines

An official Gold record of PARALLEL LINES, proudly hanging on the set of WKRP IN CINCINNATI.

The legacy of “Heart Of Glass” continues all these years later.  In 2010, ROLLING STONE listed “Heart Of Glass” at No. 259 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.  In 2016, PITCHFORK listed it at No. 18 of the best songs of the 1970s, and that same year, “Heart Of Glass” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  Dozens of covers spanning many genres dating back to 1979 have been released, including versions by late Country guitar legend Chet Atkins, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, The Bad Plus, Nouvelle Vague, Erasure, and a lovely Jazz Pop vocal cover by The Puppini Sisters back in 2006.

blondie rs 79

Blondie on the cover of ROLLING STONE, June 1979.

Just this past year, “Heart Of Glass” was ranked at No. 66 among the biggest-selling singles of all-time in the U.K. (and Blondie remains as the all-time biggest-selling American band in the U.K.), and in 2006, Blondie was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  No doubt “Heart Of Glass” played a big role in that. 

And, to mark the 40th anniversary of “Heart Of Glass,” in October 2018, a new 12” single was released, featuring six different mixes, including the 1975 and 1978 versions of “Once I Had A Love,” two single versions, and the original 12” dance mix and its 12” instrumental counterpart.

blondie-heart-of-glass-ep

The special 2018 EP of “Heart Of Glass.”

You can hear the legacy of “Heart Of Glass” on their latest album, 2017’s brilliant POLLINATOR, especially on the song, “Long Time,” one of my all-time favorite Blondie songs, and probably my favorite song of this decade.  Stephen Thompson of SPIN Magazine praised “Long Time,” and regarding its oft-comparison to “Heart Of Glass,” states it “never feels like a mere rehash, [showing] a future brighter than fans had any right to expect. It’s the best Blondie song in ages and a joy to behold.”  I couldn’t agree more.

pollinator

Before “Heart Of Glass” was a hit, there was trepidation within Blondie.  Even drummer extraordinaire and original member Clem Burke refused to play it live at first.  But, eventually he gave in.  So did fans who initially thought Blondie sold out.  “Heart Of Glass” has long since been embraced the world over and lives on in radio immortality.  Though it’s not my favorite Blondie song (that distinction goes to 1979’s “Dreaming”), it’s one I’ll always treasure, especially since it introduced me to the band in early 1979. 

So, raise your hearts of glasses up high, and wish “Heart Of Glass” a Happy 40th!    Many of my favorite songs turn 40 this year, but I’m glad you’re the first.  I’ll love you and Blondie forever.

blondie 2018

Blondie today, from L to R: Clem Burke, Chris Stein, Leigh Foxx, Debbie Harry, Tommy Kesler and Matt Katz-Bohen.

“Yeah, riding high on love’s true bluish light…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGU_4-5RaxU

blondie 1979

Blondie, New York, 1979, from L to R: Clem Burke, Nigel Harrison, Jimmy Destri, Frank Infante, Chris Stein, Debbie Harry.

song of the day – “Give Peace A Chance” | PLASTIC ONO BAND | 1969 / 1981.

There’s one thing I consistently wish for every Christmas, and that’s peace.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  John Lennon was one of those people.  In the Spring of 1969, during of the Vietnam War, in a hotel in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote a song that became this huge anthem for the anti-war movement here in America during the 1970s.  That song is “Give Peace A Chance.”

The recording session took place at that Montreal hotel on June 1, 1969, and featured many journalists and celebrities, including Timothy Leary, Petula Clark, and Tom Smothers of The Smothers Brothers even played acoustic guitar with John Lennon on “Give Peace A Chance.”

give peace recording

From the recording of “Give Peace A Chance,” June 1, 1969, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

It was released a month later, and became the first solo single released by a Beatle (the band was still together at that point), though it was credited to the Plastic Ono Band, and not directly John Lennon.  The song was a huge success, reaching No. 1 in The Netherlands, and the Top 10 in a least a handful of other countries, including the U.K., where it reached No. 2.  It peaked at No. 14 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 here in America in early September 1969.

give peace single

Following the tragic death of John Lennon on December 8, 1980, “Give Peace A Chance” (along with many other of his songs) re-entered the U.K. singles chart, and in 1981, peaked at No. 33. 

Over the years, the song has been covered by the likes of U2, Hot Chocolate, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Louis Armstrong, Aerosmith, and even by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as a tribute (and testament) to John Lennon and his message to “Give Peace A Chance.”

peace_choir-give_peace_a_chance_s_1

In 1991, Yoko Ono and her son with John, Sean Ono Lennon, along with Lenny Kravitz, spearheaded a new version of the song in response to (what eventually became) the Gulf War.  This version recruited many artists from all over the music landscape, including Cyndi Lauper, Peter Gabriel, Ofra Haza, Adam Ant, Terence Trent D’Arby, Dave Stewart, Bruce Hornsby, Little Richard, LL Cool J, Michael McDonald, Wendy & Lisa, Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, Little Steven Van Zandt, Don Was, Iggy Pop, MC Hammer, Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, Randy Newman, and members of the Zappa family, including Dweezil and Moon Unit.

cyndi ll sean lenny

From L to R: Cyndi Lauper, LL Cool J, Sean Ono Lennon and Lenny Kravitz giving peace a chance in 1991.

Sometimes it’s hard to find peace, especially this time of year.  Right now, the so-called “leader” of America is responsible for a partial government shutdown because he didn’t get funding for an unnecessary border wall between the United States and Mexico.  Millions of Americans (including many government workers) are affected by this partial shutdown this holiday season, something they had nothing to do with.  Will they have peace this holiday season?  One can hope.

Back in November 1989, people were tired of the long-standing Berlin Wall separating East and West Berlin (and Germany as a whole), and the fall of the Berlin Wall began.  Within two years, the Wall was removed, save for sections serving as a memorial.  East Germany and West Germany became one Germany.  That was almost three decades ago.  So, what’s happening here in America?  Why can’t Mr. Trump take his DeLorean and go back in time to see why it’s wrong to build up walls, and why people don’t want them?

berlin wall

The beginning of the fall of the Berlin Wall, November 1989.

Much like Germany back in the 80s, the United States of America is not so united these days, sadly.  The country is split in two, like there’s a wall between it.  When you build walls, whether it’s between countries or within yourself, there’s no room for peace.  When you build walls around you, you shut everyone else out.  Mr. Trump’s vision is limited because there is a wall in front of it. 

I think John Lennon, who so loved this country, would have been deeply disappointed about today’s America.  But, I also think he would have done everything he could to give peace that chance it so deserves.  And I know he would have loved the fact that his 49-year-old anthem for peace is still cherished by millions around the globe today. 

My annual Christmas wish for peace for everyone will continue to be my wish. Happy Xmas everyone…

peace

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yU0JuE1jTk

beautiful bed peace hair peace john lennon and yoko ono in bed

song of the day – “Caravan Of Love” | THE HOUSEMARTINS | 1986 / 1987.

Happy Winter Solstice and Happy Holidays everyone!

As a proud singles chart nerd, I have loved singles chart info from all over the globe ever since I can remember.  One chart phenomenon I wasn’t really aware of until well into my adulthood was this phenomenon over in the U.K. and Ireland, a tradition that started back in 1952 and is known as the Christmas No. 1. 

The Christmas No. 1 is prolly the most-coveted piece of chart nerdiness for everyone (artists and fans alike) during the entire year over in the U.K. and Ireland.  Artists rush out to release singles, many of them Christmas singles, in hopes to reach the top of the charts the week in which Christmas falls.  It’s a big deal. number one

Since 1952, The Beatles hold the record as the act with the most Christmas No. 1’s.  Band Aid’s original 1984 version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (the Christmas No. 1 for that year) is not only the biggest-selling Christmas song of all-time in the U.K., it’s also the second biggest-selling U.K. single of all-time (behind Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997”).  Two other incarnations of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” were Christmas No. 1’s in 1989 and 2004.  The third-biggest selling U.K. single of all-time is Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which is the only song to hold the title of Christmas No. 1 twice – during its original 1975 release, and in 1991, following the passing of singer Freddie Mercury a month before.

last xmas

There are also many popular Christmas singles that didn’t become the coveted Christmas No. 1, including “Last Christmas / Everything She Wants” by Wham! (released the same week as “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and itself is one of the biggest-selling U.K. singles ever), and in 1987,  the beloved “Fairytale Of New York” by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl, the most-played Christmas song of the 21st century and oft-regarded as the best Christmas song of all-time.  It was denied the Christmas No. 1 spot by the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of “Always On My Mind.”

fairytale

In 1986, the race for the U.K. Christmas No. 1 was between a couple of non-holiday songs: a posthumous re-release of “Reet Petite,” a 1957 single by Jackie Wilson, who died in early 1984, and an a cappella cover of “Caravan Of Love,” the third U.K. Top 40 single by Hull, England’s The Housemartins.

caravan HM

“Caravan Of Love” was a song originally by Isley-Jasper-Isley, one-half of the famous Isley Brothers lineup dating back to the 1970s.  The song was a huge R&B hit, spending three weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart in late 1985, and reaching No. 51 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (it was climbing the Hot 100 this week in 1985).caravan IJI

A year after the popularity of the Isley-Jasper-Isley original version of “Caravan Of Love,” The Housemartins released their version, a non-album single and a cappella cover.  With this cover, The Housemartins scored their second Top 10 U.K. single in a year (1986’s “Happy Hour” went to No. 3), and a month after its release, “Caravan Of Love” went to No. 1 on December 20, 1986.  It was only the second a cappella single in U.K. singles chart history to reach No. 1 (the first was the Christmas No. 1 from 1983, “Only You” by The Flying Pickets, a cover of the 1982 Yaz gem).

only you

Jackie Wilson’s re-release of “Reet Petite” reached No. 1 in the U.K. on December 27, 1986 (thanks to a popular claymation video created for the song, which aired on a BBC Two documentary series called ARENA), and stayed there for four weeks.

reet petite

The 1986 re-release of “Reet Petite.”

Now, even though “Reet Petite” reached No. 1 two days after Christmas 1986, it was No. 1 the week Christmas fell that year (Christmas was on a Thursday that year; the charts were dated for that Saturday, 12/27/86), and therefore won the race for the U.K. Christmas No. 1 for 1986.

“Caravan Of Love,” meanwhile, was a huge hit throughout the globe, reaching No. 2 in Germany, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, No. 3 in The Netherlands, No. 4 in Spain, No. 5 in Belgium, No. 7 in Austria, No. 24 in Australia, and spent eight weeks at No. 1 during 1987 in Sweden.

caravan video

From the “Caravan Of Love” video.

Though the quartet lost out on the U.K. Christmas No. 1, The Housemartins could take solace in the fact that they claimed the Christmas No. 1 in Ireland, as “Caravan Of Love” spent four weeks on top over the holiday season.

The Housemartins would go on to chart four more times in the U.K. Top 40, before splitting up in 1988.  Singer Paul Heaton, drummer / vocalist Dave Hemingway and roadie Sean Welch would go on to form The Beautiful South, which enjoyed success for the nearly 20 years they were together.  Bassist Norman Cook found some success with Beats International, but is prolly best known for his work under the pseudonym Fatboy Slim, which has given him massive success since 1996.  In January 2018, he released a remix album called FATBOY SLIM VS. AUSTRALIA.

fatboy slim

Former Housemartin Norman Cook, AKA Fatboy Slim.

I know not everyone is a singles chart nerd like myself, but I think it’s cool that, at least once a year in at least a couple of countries across the globe, many people become singles chart nerds and then some.  I mean, c’mon, who wouldn’t want a No. 1 song for Christmas?

xmas no 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehfiQd7lcPY

housemartins 2

song of the day – “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” | THE HOLLIES | 1969 / 1970 / 1988.

Today (July 27, 2018) is my brother Mark’s first birthday without him here.  Mark passed away unexpectedly a couple of weeks before Xmas 2017 at the age of 47.  Being the oldest child of 10, I have six baby sisters and three baby brothers.  Mark was my first baby brother, and all these months later, I still can’t believe he’s gone.

I think it’s hardest the first year, you know, because of all the holidays and anniversaries of events you remember from all your life. Mark was born in Downeast Maine (Machias) on July 27, 1970, and graduated from Winslow High School three years after I did, in 1988.  The pictures included in this blog post are just a few examples of how I remember Mark. 

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My brother, Mark Raymond, and one of the Senior pictures taken of him, Winslow, Maine, August 25, 1987.

Next weekend is another anniversary, of the weekend I proclaimed my love for Maryhope in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, including a swim in the cold Atlantic Ocean that also changed my life forever. Mark was responsible for us staying in OOB at the hotel he worked for, and managed to get us a room at the last minute during the height of the Maine summer.  No easy trick.  But Mark pulled it off. And I’m forever grateful for that weekend, and forever grateful Mark and Maryhope got to meet each other.  That weekend, she arrived in OOB before I did, and right away, she asked if she could give Mark a hug.  Since they just met, Maryhope wasn’t sure if he’d be interested in a hug, but Mark said something like, “Sure, I’ll take a hug!”  And Mark was not disappointed!  Maryhope gives the best hugs. 

Mark was one of the hardest-working people and had one of the best work ethics of anyone I have ever known.  When Maryhope and I were there at the hotel (where he also lived), we got to see him in his element, in his town, hanging out in his downtime with the visitors from Québec and beyond, who appreciated him so much and loved having him around every year they came back to Old Orchard Beach.  He never said this, but I really think he loved working by the sea. 

Mark OOB

Mark in Old Orchard Beach, Maine (date of the picture unknown, but I believe this was taken on his birthday several years ago).

Mark had a love for the Dallas Cowboys, pizza kits from a local grocery store here in Winslow, Maine, and GOOD MORNING AMERICA’s (and FLEA MARKET FLIP host) Lara Spencer (who he named his beloved cat after).  Sadly, almost three months to the day Mark died, Lara passed away as well.  She had several things wrong with her, but I think mostly, it was because her heart was so broken at the loss of Mark.  There’s no other reasonable explanation for a two-year-old cat to just have all these things wrong with her. Their ashes are next to each other at my parents’ house and hopefully Mark and Lara are hanging out together somewhere now and watching marathons of FLEA MARKET FLIP. 

Lara 12.14.17

In this picture from the day after Mark died (December 14, 2017), Lara was looking up at the angel atop my parents’ Xmas tree. I’d swear she was looking at Mark. 

One of my favorite memories of Mark was in my Senior year of high school, in the Fall of 1984, and Mark was a Freshman.  It was my second and final year of Cross-Country, a sport I finally found my stride in (pun intended), and for the first few weeks of the season, I was always finishing just outside of the coveted Top 10 Varsity spots.  One week, we had a Cross-Country race in Waterville, in the woods near a golf course and the junior high school.  Waterville (or Wooterville, depending on your accent or mine) was our longtime rivals across the bridge, and I can’t remember how it happened, but in that race, Mark finished just seconds ahead of me.  It was a great moment for Mark.  And our coach, the wonderful Gene Roy, didn’t think I would live that down, but in that moment, he said he would bet on me to step it up in the next race and come out on top.  And, he was right.  Thanks to Mark, I not only beat him in the next race, but with that next race, I reached the Top 10, and stayed there as a Varsity runner for the rest of the season.  I believe I finished eighth for the year, and picked up not only a Varsity letter, but the Most Improved award as well.  And Mark inspired me to run faster and harder, and forever I owe that to him.  Mark himself would later letter in XC as well.

51a3mzh6ymLAnother memory that comes to mind: If anyone asks me where I was the first weekend BACK TO THE FUTURE was released in theaters in July 1985, I can safely say, because of Mark, I saw it twice in the same day (something I did not do back then, or now).  It was about a month after my high school graduation, and I went by myself to the matinee show, and Mark told my mom he wanted to see BACK TO THE FUTURE with a girl that night, so I offered to drive them, but when we got to the theater, he said he wanted to see RAMBO II instead, so I did the brotherly thing and got his tickets for RAMBO II and I got another ticket for myself to watch back-to-back viewings of BACK TO THE FUTURE.  I just couldn’t say no to him.

Life wasn’t always easy for Mark, and he was in a lot of pain most of his adult life, but he was one of the strongest people I ever knew, I was so proud of him and I looked up to him, though I don’t ever recall telling him that.  I hope he knew how I felt.  I take comfort in the fact he’s no longer in any pain.  Maryhope reassured me, in just from the weekend she and I were in OOB, that he looked up to me as well, and was proud of me, too.  And we could see the happiness in his eyes when he saw Maryhope and I were together and happy. 

me+MHT OOB moonlight 080617 3

That’s me and Maryhope enjoying the moonlight by the ocean, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, Sunday, August 6, 2017.

In his later years, Mark wasn’t a fan of having his picture taken, and the last day we saw Mark, on Monday, August 7, 2017, Maryhope asked if she could take his picture.  He respectfully declined, though I’ll forever wish he had wanted to.  Last night, I went through a box of old photographs of Mark, hoping to find something with the two of us, but I was unsuccessful in my search. 

he ain't heavy 69 netherlands

1969 Netherlands 7″ single of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved The Hollies’ worldwide Top 10 hit from 1969 and 1970, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”  And for those reading this who are chart nerds like yours truly, the reason I have 1988 also listed at the top of the blog post is because in the U.K. in 1988, a commercial using “He Ain’t Heavy” and promoting Miller Lite (of all things) resonated with fans and the song was re-released as a single, reaching No. 1 in the U.K. for two weeks in the early fall of that year (surpassing its original No. 3 peak in that country).

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From the Miller Lite U.K. advert that brought “He Ain’t Heavy” to the top of the U.K. singles chart after nearly 20 years.

Mark was NOT a chart nerd, but he did enjoy music, especially that of a hard rock / heavy metal persuasion, at least in his younger days.  He loved Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard and Guns ‘N Roses, and the comedy of Stephen Lynch.  In my ginormous head, I’ve long thought of creating a mash-up of “He Ain’t Heavy” with the drum beat of Led Zep’s “When The Levee Breaks,” and hope to create that soon in Mark’s honor.  I think he would have liked it.

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The 1988 U.K. re-release of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

Ever since Mark passed away, I can’t get “He Ain’t Heavy” out of my head.  The day before my birthday this year, Maryhope and I were at a restaurant in Portland, just a couple months after Mark died, and “He Ain’t Heavy” started playing on the radio in the restaurant.  I started weeping right away, I couldn’t stop.  I’m so forever grateful Maryhope was there to comfort me. 

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A young Mark chillin’ on top of the stove, date unknown, Southwest Harbor, Maine.

I know the origins of the phrase, “No, he’s not heavy; he’s my brother” date back to 1884 Scotland and variations have been used over the years, like in the 1940s, when it was used as a slogan for Boys’ Town (“He ain’t heavy, Father [Flanagan], he’s my brother”), but I will forever associate this song with Mark.

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Mark at our family’s longtime favorite spot, Seawall Picnic Area, Acadia National Park, July 14, 1984.

Happy Birthday, my brother.  I love you (and Lara), and miss you, and hope you are both having some fun adventures on your first birthday away from Earth, wherever you are.  You deserve it… 

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From Mark’s third birthday party, Southwest Harbor, Maine, 1973.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pfUqhV_OyI

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Mark listening to some tunes, date unknown, Southwest Harbor, Maine. I love this shot. Prolly my favorite picture of Mark.

song of the day – “Whenever You’re On My Mind” | MARSHALL CRENSHAW | 1983.

Played John Lennon from 1978 to 1980 in productions of BEATLEMANIA on both sides of the United States.  Appeared with his band in the 1986 Francis Ford Coppola film, PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED.  Played Buddy Holly in 1987 film, LA BAMBA.  Golden Globe and Grammy nominee.  Songs covered by the likes of Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, Ronnie Spector and Bette Midler.  10 studio albums, seven EPs, six live albums, six compilations.  1982 self-titled debut album at No. 72 of ROLLING STONE’s 100 Best Albums Of The 80s.

When talking about Detroit native Marshall Crenshaw, with all these accomplishments, it’s hard to think of him as a (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, despite the fact that it’s actually true. 

MC 1982 album

After the success of 1982’s MARSHALL CRENSHAW album and “Someday, Someway” single, for his second album, the multi-talented singer / songwriter / musician recruited über-producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Big Country, The Psychedelic Furs, Peter Gabriel, Joan Armatrading) to produce his second album, FIELD DAY.

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Originally, fans weren’t happy with the noticeably sharper-produced album, but ultimately critics heralded FIELD DAY (Robert Christgau gave the album an A+), and fans followed.  Though the album didn’t fare as well as his self-titled debut, Marshall Crenshaw avoided the dreaded “sophomore slump” of second albums, and more importantly, he found his feet.  Compared to the Power Pop style of the late, great Alex Chilton, Marshall Crenshaw once admitted, “Some of the stuff I’ve done you could call power pop, but the term does have sort of a dodgy connotation.”

The first single released from FIELD DAY, “Whenever You’re On My Mind,” is, dodgy or not, just over three minutes of pure Power Pop perfection.  Though it was a hit on MTV and reached No. 23 on BILLBOARD’s Rock Tracks Chart, it just missed reaching the BILLBOARD Hot 100, stopping at No. 103. 

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For many years, all I knew of Marshall Crenshaw was his film work and the gorgeous “Someday, Someway.”But, a few years back, I found one of his collections and discovered how incredible and brilliant and underappreciated he is, and how this guy should have had a ton of big hits!I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t like (or even more accurately, love) Marshall or songs such as “Someday, Someway,” “You’re My Perfect Waste Of Time” or “Whenever You’re On My Mind.” someday

If you take anything away from this post, I hope it’s this: whenever someone like Marshall Crenshaw’s on your mind, keep listening long after “Someday, Someway,” because even if they technically are a (real) one-hit wonder, it doesn’t make it right, it doesn’t mean you have to believe it, and you can rejoice in finding such a music treasure. 

Some (real) American one-hit wonders are exactly what they are labeled and known for.  But others, like World Party, Timbuk 3, The Church, Tom Tom Club, Romeo Void, The Vapors, Bronski Beat, Split Enz and Marshall Crenshaw, absolutely deserve your attention to listen further and go past that one “hit.”

“I never thought I’d be in this situation / It seems wherever I go I’m with you / And though I never seem to find my place / At every turn I see your face / Whenever I think about you / It seems to be a reverie, you’re here with me / ’cause whenever you’re on my mind / Whenever you’re on my mind / I leave the world behind / Whenever you’re on my mind…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-or2AET9L4

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Left to Right: Robert Crenshaw (drums; Marshall’s brother), Marshall Crenshaw, Chris Donato (bass).

 

song of the day – “Sleeping Angel” (from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH) | STEVIE NICKS | 1982.

You ever think back and remember how you never thought about age when you were younger?  It’s true.  Maybe we didn’t need to.  My parents took us kids to the movies when we turned 13 and 16, which was fun, but I don’t think I really started thinking about age until I was 15, when I lost my grandmother Leona (my Mom’s mom) in 1982.  That was not so much fun.  She was just 55 and died of emphysema.  She never smoked a day in her life.

But, then, you turn 16, and then 18, and 20, 21 and 30, and so on, and along the way, you think about age, and getting older.  John Hughes tackled age, or rather, life in general, in 1986’s FERRIS BUELLER’s DAY OFF.  “Life moves pretty fast…” 

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Remember that funny diatribe about aging by Billy Crystal in 1991’s CITY SLICKERS?  He was at his kid’s school for “career day,” and expanded on Ferris’ advice five years earlier: “Value this time in your life, kids.  This is the time in your life when you still have your choices.  It goes by so fast.”  There’s definite truth to that.

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Blondie’s Debbie Harry, turning 73 in July and looking fantastic!

I think back to some of my first TV, film and music crushes when I was 13, and some were as old as my Mom, if not older.  Debbie Harry turns 73 this Summer and is still rockin’ it.  But, at 13, you don’t think about age like that.  It catches up to you, though, and then age does become a part of your life. 

But, it’s also a frame of mind, too.  As I stated in my last blog post, I look and feel better at 51 than I did at 41 or 31.  I know it’s not like that for everyone, but I’m embracing age like never before.  But, John Hughes and his creation, Ferris Bueller, were right – “Live moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  I’m making sure I stop and look around these days.  With Maryhope, I am the happiest I have ever been in my life, and I don’t want to miss anything.

Maryhope inspires much in my life, and inspired this post.  She reminded me that today is Stevie Nicks’ 70th birthday, which, in itself is hard to believe.  Same age as my Mom, which is pretty cool.  Being stuck in the 80s all the time is fun, but you also lose track of time sometimes.  You think, Stevie can’t be 70!  “Stand Back” just came out!  Then you realize that was half her life ago, and more than half of yours. 

stand back

In a ROLLING STONE article from a year ago, of turning 70 this year, Stevie Nicks said, “I don’t like that number.  I see lots of people my age, and lots of people who are younger than me, and I think, ‘Wow, those people look really old.’  I think it’s because they didn’t try.”

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For the massive double-album soundtrack to the 1982 classic film, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, many popular artists of the time were recruited, including Donna Summer, The Go-Go’s, Oingo Boingo, Jackson Browne, Quarterflash, Sammy Hagar, Jimmy Buffett and Billy Squier.  Several members of the then-disbanded Eagles were on there, including Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Don Felder and Timothy B. Schmit.  That wasn’t a coincidence.  One of the film’s producers, Irving Azoff, was also a personal manager of The Eagles and Stevie Nicks, who appears on the soundtrack with “Sleeping Angel.”

Stevie Nicks’ monster solo debut album, BELLA DONNA, had been released in 1981, almost a year to the day prior to FAST TIMES, and “Sleeping Angel” was actually meant to appear on the album, but ended up not being used for the record.

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Paul Fishkin and Stevie Nicks, 1980.

In my research for this blog post, I found that “Sleeping Angel” was not written about Lindsey Buckingham (as many had thought), but was about a music executive by the name of Paul Fishkin, who she was with in 1980, and who would co-found (Atlantic Records imprint) Modern Records (1980) with Stevie and Danny Goldberg.

I also stumbled upon FleetwoodMac.net, where a bunch of people put the “Sleeping Angel” in perspective, or rather, an interpretation, and it makes sense.  Age comes up in their interpretation, and in the song:

“Well someday when we’re older / And my hair is silver gray / Unbraid with all the love that you have / Like a soft silver chain…” 

On FleetwoodMac.net, it’s interpreted that “age plays a big part in Stevie’s songs, that life keeps going and you can’t stop it; she knows she can’t stop it.  She is trying to embrace old age, embrace death.” 

Well, I’m not at a point where I want to embrace old age or death, but I embrace my 50s and love being healthy and happy and madly in love with Maryhope (who was an absolutely amazing super-sized Stevie Nicks for Halloween 2017), and when it’s my turn to be 70, maybe then I’ll be ready to embrace old age. 

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Maryhope is enchanting as Super-Sized Stevie!  I took this gorgeous photo at Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 10.29.2017.

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I took this absolutely stunning photo of Maryhope (also on 10.29.2017) at Portland, Maine’s famed Evergreen Cemetery.  One of my all-time favorite photos of Maryhope.

On that FleetwoodMac.net interpretation of “Sleeping Angel,” they write about that “soft silver chain” in the song, and how Stevie’s “that chain now: sturdy, letting her sleeping angel wake up.  Stevie is a woman of prophesy – fully aware of who she is and her capabilities…and I believe she doesn’t regret one thing that happened to her.  Now she can stand tall and as a survivor…her sleeping angel has awakened.” 

For a long time, I was pretty dead inside.  Well, maybe not dead, but not really alive, not living life the best I could, or should.  I truly know, especially in the last four years, that Maryhope was the inspiration for awakening my sleeping angel…and for reigniting my love for Stevie Nicks’ music.  Thank you, Maryhope!  I absolutely love you!  And Happy 70th Stevie! 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q7mtQKQPQE

stevie 1982