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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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…” 

ferris

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.

bella donna

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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

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song of the day – “Dazzle” | SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES | 1984.

I was quite late jumping on to the Siouxsie And The Banshees train.  I was a fan of Top 40 music for many years, before branching out in 1987 (thanks to my new friend, Michael) into more Alternative music (called Modern Rock back in the day). 

The memory in my ginormous melon is a bit fuzzy on this, but I honestly believe my first introduction to Siouxsie And The Banshees was with 1988’s “Peek-A-Boo.”  The band had been together for 12 years at that point, and had been releasing music for 10 years. peek a boo

While American college radio had been enjoying the London band’s first eight studio albums and one live album, commercial American radio was late in hopping aboard on the Siouxsie train as well.  By 1988, Siouxsie Sioux and Co. had racked up 14 Top 40 hits in their U.K. homeland, while “Peek-A-Boo” was their first American hit.

The following year, The Creatures (a side project away from The Banshees featuring Siouxsie Sioux and drummer Budgie) released their second album, BOOMERANG, and I fell in love with the remixes of the gorgeous, pulsating “Standing There,” and the fun, playful “Fury Eyes.”  I still have the CD single.

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The Creatures (Siouxsie and Budgie), 1989.

From there, my love for the music of Siouxsie And The Banshees only grew.  Unlike 1989’s brilliant BATMAN, which featured an incredible score by Danny Elfman and songs by Prince, 1992’s BATMAN RETURNS primarily featured Danny Elfman’s score throughout the film, but with a lone song featured in the movie – the stunning and haunting “Face To Face.”  That song was co-written by Siouxsie And The Banshees and Danny Elfman, who orchestrated the song, and which was produced by Portland, Maine native, Stephen Hague.

face to face

Later that year, their second singles compilation, TWICE UPON A TIME: THE SINGLES, was released, and I was able to catch up some with the band that had eluded me for so long.  And by the time my STUCK IN THE 80s program first aired in 1996, Siouxsie And The Banshees became a regular staple throughout the show’s nearly 21 years.

It’s funny how you can love a band for so long, but become enamored with certain tracks much later after you discover them.  That happened with me and 1984’s “Dazzle.”  From their sixth studio album, HYÆNA(their only album to feature The Cure’s Robert Smith, on guitars and keyboards), “Dazzle” was dazzling from the start.  The band recruited a 27-piece orchestra by the name of the “Chandos Players,” which played strings from a piece written by Siouxsie Sioux that originated on piano (which itself was originally called “Baby Piano”).

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From there, “Dazzle” thrusts itself into an incredible anthematic marriage of pounding drums and guitars and strings, complimented by Siouxsie Sioux’s stirring vocals, enhanced with the perfect amount of reverb.

In a 1984 MELODY MAKER review of HYÆNA by critic Steve Sutherland, “Dazzle” was referred to as “naively daring.  Siouxsie’s voice, framed alone against the firmament of strings.  It could be [Andrew] Lloyd Webber’s CATS or something by Vaughn Williams.  You can get impressed, wrapped up and lost in this.” 

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The U.K. 12″ of “Dazzle,” featuring the beautiful 7-minute Glamour Mix.

From a review of the 25th anniversary reissue of the album, “[HYÆNA] was [Siouxsie And The Banshees’] most experimental work, [Robert] Smith’s presence is keenly felt on the disciplined execution of the grandiose ‘Dazzle’” (which Robert Smith co-wrote with the band).  “Dazzle” became the band’s 11th Top 40 U.K. hit (out of 18 total, between 1978 and 1994).

Eve since I’ve known the dazzling Maryhope, “Dazzle” has always been a huge part of playlists for any of her incredible radio shows on WMPG, and was on her playlist for the first time she filled in for me on STUCK IN THE 80s in late July 2006, not long after I had met her. 

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The July 30, 2006 playlist from the first time Maryhope filled on STUCK IN THE 80s. As you can see, it kicked much ass.

And because of Maryhope, I latched onto a song I had known for years but didn’t latch on to initially for whatever reason.  “Dazzle” may not be as well known as “Cities In Dust” or “Peek-A-Boo” or “Kiss Them For Me,” but it’s one of my favorite Siouxsie And The Banshees songs, and will dazzle for years to come.  You should revisit it if you haven’t heard it in awhile.  You’ll be dazzled too… 

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The dazzling Maryhope, Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth, ME, 10.09.17.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94wZxJBbv3g

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Siouxsie And The Banshees with The Cure’s Robert Smith, 1984.

song of the day – “Let My Love Open The Door” (E. Cola Mix) | PETE TOWNSHEND | 1996.

In the history of music, some of the best love songs ever recorded don’t even have “love” in the title.  Some great examples include Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” The Beatles’ “Something,” and prolly the best example of this, “Ring Of Fire” by Johnny Cash. 

ring of fire

In 1980, The Who’s Pete Townshend wrote a song that did include the word love in the title, but was never meant as a love song.  That came later.

Inbetween 1978’s WHO ARE YOU and 1981’s FACE DANCES albums, Pete Townshend put together his third studio effort away from his band, his first album comprised of all original songs.  The album was called EMPTY GLASS, and featured future Big Country members Mark Brzezicki and Tony Butler.   

empty glass

One of the songs on the album was “Let My Love Open The Door,” a song Pete Townshend once referred to as a song about “the power of God’s love,” and later wrote off as “Just a ditty.”  But, it paid off, becoming a Top 10 hit in the U.S. and Canada, his biggest solo hit away from The Who.

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Fast forward to April 1996, and THE BEST OF PETE TOWNSHEND compilation album was released.  A new remix of “Let My Love Open The Door” appeared on the compilation (along with the 1980 original), that Pete called The E. Cola Mix.  He remixed this slower, ballad version of the love song along with Chris Thomas (who co-produced EMPTY GLASS and many INXS albums), producer Tim Oliver, and Jack Hues of Wang Chung. 

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A year after the compilation’s release, GROSSE POINTE BLANK, the brilliant 1997 John Cusack film set around an 80s high school reunion, was released, and it was the first film or TV show (of many) to feature the beautiful E. Cola Mix of “Let My Love Open The Door.”  I couldn’t find any info to confirm, but I’ve always wondered if the E. Cola Mix was commissioned for GROSSE POINTE BLANK.  Regardless, its use in the film just felt right and it was a nice moment in the movie.  Now I want to watch it again. 

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A scene from the high school reunion in 1997’s brilliant GROSSE POINTE BLANK, with John Cusack and Minnie Driver, and the E. Cola Mix of “Let My Love Open The Door” playing in the background…

forever young blog logoFor those keeping track, this is my first blog post in about nine months.  All apologies for the extended and unintended hiatus from the bloggy thing here.  A couple things happened while I was away from writing FOREVER YOUNG.  

First, a truly amazing thing happened to me last Summer – I fell in love with Maryhope, my superfriend, my sassy radio co-host for so many years, my yoga coach, my running partner, my writing hero, the reason this blog exists, and my best friend.   

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The beautiful Maryhope, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 8.6.2017.

That first weekend in August 2017, we stayed in Old Orchard Beach, Maine at the height of the summer, and a busy weekend at the Summer vacation destination that included a Salvation Army band by the pier playing Journey, three women dressed as leprechauns (really? in August?!?!), a swim in the cold Atlantic that changed my life forever, and the moment where I proclaimed my love for Maryhope, which was long overdue. 

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That’s my pre-running tubby self, blowing a kiss to the gorgeous Maryhope, OOB 8.6.2017.

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My baby brother Mark, Thanksgiving 2013.

That weekend, Maryhope got to meet my baby brother, Mark, and I’m forever grateful for that, because four and a half months later, just before Xmas, Mark passed away unexpectedly at the age of 47.  Mark was responsible for us staying in OOB that weekend, was very instrumental to that entire weekend, and he was so happy for us, and I was so happy to see him, in his element, in his town.  I miss him terribly, and I’ll miss him forever, and I promise to dedicate a blog post to him soon.  I love you, Mark.

David Bowie once said, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”  It took me a long time to figure that out.  Almost too long.  Maryhope figured it out right away, and was in love with me long before I figured it out.  In July 2017, after an incredible weekend together, she texted me a line from my favorite David Bowie song, “Absolute Beginners”: “I absolutely love you.”  And, for reasons that still boggle my mind, my not-so-great reply (I think) was, “Oh yeah, I love you too!”  What she realized (and I yet hadn’t) is that WE were the “Absolute Beginners” David Bowie was singing about.  I didn’t hear from her for two days and I thought I had lost her forever.  And I couldn’t get “Absolute Beginners” out of my head.  And, between “Absolute Beginners” and my embarrassing admission of jealousy towards a friend of hers, I finally figured it out.  And a week later, I told Maryhope I was in love with her!  

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The amazing Maryhope and a very happy yours truly, Kettle Cove, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 9.2.2017.

In the 12 years I’ve known Maryhope, and especially these last four years, I can say absolutely and unequivocally, Maryhope has always challenged me and pushed me to become the person I am today, the person I was all along and didn’t see it.  But she knew.  She knows me better than I know myself.  We have consistently said we had a hand in saving each other’s lives, and we certainly did.  When all this started, I just hadn’t realized how much my life was truly in need of saving.  I’ve gone from being the guy who crashed on MaryHope’s couch all those years ago to now, a man who has discovered and embraced the joys of running, growing out my natural hair (without the not-so “subtle highlights”), pot, vegetarian cooking, tea, yoga, meditation, reading Rumi, listening to the brilliance that is Bruce Springsteen, T. Rex and Janis Joplin, letting out my inner hippie, looking and feeling better at 51 than I did at 41 or 31, and all the while being madly in love with the most gorgeous and beautiful and funniest and brilliant and sexiest and truly amazing woman in the universe!  I am the happiest and luckiest man in the history of men.  

Maryhope, I absolutely love you!  It’s absolutely true! 

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Me and the enchanting Maryhope, Kettle Cove, 12.17.2017.

 

To those folks reading these words, and who are on the verge of love, and someone says to you, “I absolutely love you,” DO NOT hesitate to respond back with those same four beautiful words.   

Apart from a truly beautiful thing happening in my life, and a truly heartbreaking loss in my life, I think that’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t write anything for awhile – I couldn’t find the right words.  Don’t wait too long to say the right things.  I waited a long time, and often stumbled over saying the wrong things.  I still do.  But, as Maryhope has reminded me often, sometimes saying something, anything – even if it might not be the right thing – is often better than not saying anything at all.  

Life’s too short.  If someone says to you, “Let my love open the door,” you walk – or run, without hesitation – right through that open door and quickly close the door behind you.  Don’t look back; look forward.  What’s waiting for you there I can’t tell you, but if it’s anything like what I’m experiencing right now with Maryhope, there will be joy and tears of joy, laughter, dancing, extraordinary adventures, a bond like no other, and a strong, precious, beautiful love that will keep those love songs flowing for all time… 

MHT RLRjr Boston 042818

Two stunning hippies enjoying a sensational Spring day at Boston Common, 4.28.2018.

“Let my love open the door / Let my love open the door / Let my love open the door / To your heart…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f4Jtm4hTAU 

WMPGvolution

Evolution of a couple friends / DJs / best friends / two sexxy people in love: WMPG-FM, Portland, Maine, April 2013 (left) and New Year’s Eve 2017-2018.

 

 

song of the day – “Abracadabra” | STEVE MILLER BAND | 1982.

colin hay strand 081617

Waiting for the real Colin Hay to begin, Rockland, Maine, 8.16.2017. He was, of course, fantastic and soulful.

Hey everyone!  Thanks so much for being patient with me, as I’ve taken an unexpected (but quite enjoyable) absence from the bloggy thing since the end of July.  There’s been work stuff, home stuff, I had a fun time attending concerts featuring Blondie, the 80s Retro Futura Tour (including Howard Jones, Modern English, Men Without Hats, Paul Young, Katrina of Katrina And The Waves, and The English Beat!), and most recently, seeing the wonderful Colin Hay in beautiful Rockland, Maine. 

I’ve also been spending a lot of quality time with the incredible and awesome Hope, my superfriend, sassy radio co-host and writing hero, which included a swim in the cold Atlantic Ocean here in Maine that changed me forever.  There’s a lot more to say, and I will, in a post coming soon that will be about Hope and that swim in the ocean and much more!  And Hope comes up again later in this post, so stay tuned!!

HopeyT and me

That’s the absolutely lovely HopeyT and me, Kettle Cove State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 9.2.2017!

When I started my tribute to my radio hero, Casey Kasem, back on June 1, school was in session and Summer was weeks away.  Well, it’s now September 9, 2017, school is back in session and Fall is less than two weeks away.  I’ve had fun bringing you this tribute to Casey (who passed away in June 2014 at the age of 82), and wanted to make sure (1) you all didn’t think I would hold out on the Number One song of this tribute, and (2) that I get this in ASAFP, because what’s a Top 40 countdown without a Number One song?

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Much like AMERICAN TOP 40, this post will be full of nerdy chart facts and then some, but first, I wanted to recap the songs I’ve posted in this series so far.  These songs (which include five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), are ranked at the positions they peaked at on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (with peak year), and though they do not represent a definitive Top 40 list for me, but I love all of them, and hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them!

40. CLONES (WE’RE ALL) – ALICE COOPER (1980)

39. SLIPPING AWAY – DAVE EDMUNDS (1983)

38. PROMISES IN THE DARK – PAT BENATAR (1981)

37. WHISPER TO A SCREAM (BIRDS FLY) – ICICLE WORKS (1984; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

36. SOMETIMES A FANTASY – BILLY JOEL (1980)

35. FAKE FRIENDS – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1983)

34. ME MYSELF AND I – DE LA SOUL (1989)

33. PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE) – U2 (1984)

32. VALLEY GIRL – FRANK & MOON ZAPPA (1982)

31. (GHOST) RIDERS IN THE SKY – THE OUTLAWS (1981)

30. LIES – THOMPSON TWINS (1983)

29. TURN UP THE RADIO – AUTOGRAPH (1985; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

28. POINT OF NO RETURN – NU SHOOZ (1986)

27. THE RIGHT THING – SIMPLY RED (1987)

26. NOT JUST ANOTHER GIRL – IVAN NEVILLE (1988)

25. TAKE ME WITH YOU – PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION featuring APOLLONIA (1985)

24. ONE WAY OR ANOTHER – BLONDIE (1979)

23. YOU CAN CALL ME AL – PAUL SIMON (1986 / 1987)

22. AIN’T NOBODY – RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN (1983)

21. FOOL IN THE RAIN – LED ZEPPELIN (1980)

20. OUR LIPS ARE SEALED – THE GO-GO’S (1982)

19. PUSH IT – SALT-N-PEPA (1988)

18. LET ME TICKLE YOUR FANCY – JERMAINE JACKSON with DEVO (1982)

17. YOU ARE THE GIRL – THE CARS (1987)

16. HOLIDAY – MADONNA (1984)

15. ONE OF THE LIVING – TINA TURNER (1985)

14. DIGGING YOUR SCENE – THE BLOW MONKEYS (1986; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

13. TARZAN BOY – BALTIMORA (1986)

12. WHAT’S GOING ON – CYNDI LAUPER (1987)

11. EDGE OF SEVENTEEN – STEVEIE NICKS (1982)

10. RELAX – FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (1985)

09. THE ONE I LOVE – R.E.M. (1987)

08. LET THE MUSIC PLAY – SHANNON (1984)

07. WHAT I AM – EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS (1989)

06. INFATUATION – ROD STEWART (1984)

05. WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’ – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983)

04. HEART AND SOUL – T’PAU (1987; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

03. LOVE SHACK – THE B-52’S (1989)

02. DANCING IN THE DARK – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1984)

Throughout this series, I’ve been mentioned how many songs peaked at each position between 1979 and 1989.  It’s only fitting that songs which reached No. 1 would have the highest number of songs hitting the apex of the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  For this post, I am only counting the songs that reached No. 1 between January 1980 and December 1989, and for that 80s time period, 232 songs went all the way to No. 1.  Let’s get nerdy now (if you’re not already there), with some chart feats about No. 1 songs during the 80s and the BILLBOARD Hot 100:

  • FOUR (REAL) ONE-HIT WONDERS reached No. 1 during the 80s – Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”), the second-chance single, “When I’m With You” by Sheriff, Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice Theme,” and Vangelis (“Chariots Of Fire (Titles)”), though the composer did reach the chart separately twice in the early 80s as part of the duo Jon & Vangelis, with Jon Anderson of Yes.

miami vice theme

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (27); MOST NO. 1 SONGS FROM ONE ALBUM (5); MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (9) – Michael Jackson.  The King Of Pop reached No. 1 in the 80s with “Rock With You” (1980; 4 weeks at No. 1), “Billie Jean” (1983; 7 weeks), “Beat It” (1983; 3 weeks), “Say Say Say,” with Paul McCartney (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks), “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” with Siedah Garrett (1987; 1 week), “Bad” (1987; 2 weeks), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1988; 1 week), “Man In The Mirror” (1988; 2 weeks); “Dirty Diana” (1988; 1 week).beat it
  • MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (if you’re NOT Michael Jackson): Madonna (7), Phil Collins (7 solo hits), Whitney Houston (7), George Michael (6 solo hits, which includes “Careless Whisper”), Daryl Hall & John Oates (5), Lionel Richie (5).

crazy 4 U

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT ON THE HOT 100 – 40 – “Red Red Wine” – UB40. It spent 25 weeks on the Hot 100, including a week at No. 1 in 1988, and had charted for 15 weeks in its first chart run in 1984.

red red wine

  • MOST CONFIGURATIONS AT NO. 1 – PAUL McCARTNEY, with Wings (“Coming Up (Live At Glasgow),” 1980), with Stevie Wonder (“Ebony And Ivory,” 1982), and with Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say,” 1983 / 1984).

coming up

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT IN THE TOP 10 OF THE HOT 100 (15) – “Physical – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982), and “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982).  SUPER NERDY FUN FACT: the song which spent the most weeks in the Top 10 in the 80s didn’t even reach No. 1 – “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp spent 16 weeks in the Top 10, with four of those weeks in the runner-up spot.

survivor

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (10) – “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (1981 / 1982).  While it’s more commonplace on the Hot 100 these days, the biggest song of the 1980s would be the only song to spend at least 10 weeks at No. 1 on the chart for next 10 years.  In 1992, Boyz II Men spent a then-record 13 weeks at No. 1 with “End Of The Road.”  Two No. 1 songs later, Whitney Houston would break that record with “I Will Always Love You,” which spent its 14th and final week on top in late February 1993.  The current record is 16 weeks at No. 1.

physical

In the most recent tabulation of the Greatest Of All Time Hot 100 songs for BILLBOARD’s legendary singles chart, many songs from the 80s were represented, and are currently ranked as follows:

08. “Physical” – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 1)

15. “Bette Davis Eyes” – KIM CARNES (1981; 9 weeks)

16. “Endless Love” – DIANA ROSS & LIONEL RICHIE (1981; 9 weeks)

24. “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982; 6 weeks)

29. “Every Breath You Take” – THE POLICE (1983; 8 weeks)

31. “Flashdance…What A Feeling” – IRENE CARA (1983; 6 weeks)

40. “Another One Bites The Dust” – QUEEN (1980; 3 weeks)

41. “Say Say Say” – PAUL McCARTNEY & MICHAEL JACKSON (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks)

54. “Call Me” – BLONDIE (1980; 6 weeks)

57. “Lady” – KENNY ROGERS (1980; 6 weeks)

63. “Centerfold” – THE J. GEILS BAND (1982; 6 weeks)

64. “(Just Like) Starting Over” – JOHN LENNON (1980 / 1981; 5 weeks)

68. “I Love Rock ’N Roll” – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1982; 7 weeks)

73. “Ebony And Ivory” – PAUL McCARTNEY & STEVIE WONDER (1982; 7 weeks)

75. “That’s What Friends Are For” – DIONNE & FRIENDS (1986; 4 weeks)

77. “Upside Down” – DIANA ROSS (1980; 4 weeks)

83. “Billie Jean” – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983; 7 weeks)

86. “Abracadabra” – THE STEVE MILLER BAND (1982; 2 weeks)

89. “Say You, Say Me” – LIONEL RICHIE (1985 / 1986; 4 weeks)

91. “All Night Long (All Night)” – LIONEL RICHIE (1983; 4 weeks)

95. “Waiting For A Girl Like You” – FOREIGNER (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 2; still tied for a record for spending the most weeks peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100)

98. “Hurts So Good” – JOHN MELLENCAMP (1982; 4 weeks at No. 2)

So, for now, the 80s represent more than a fifth of the greatest hits to grace the BILLBOARD HOT 100.  Pretty damn cool.  I know it won’t always be like that, and I always wonder why some huge hits like Prince’s “When Doves Cry” (No. 1 for 1984) or Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” (No. 2 for 1980) aren’t up there, but songs these days tend to stay atop the Hot 100 (and the chart as a whole) a lot longer than they did back in the day, but honestly, I’m grateful for the songs that are still there. 

When I was preparing for this hefty blog post (prolly my second-longest, save for the Prince tribute post in April 2016), I was going through the list of No. 1 songs, and there are some songs I’ve already featured as a “song of the day” (Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” comes to mind, and has often as of late), and there are many others I love. 

TFF

U2_des_7But, I concede that there are some real stinkers in there, too: Will To Power’s awful covers medley of “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Freebird” (subtitled “Freebaby,” which is just heinous)?!  How in THE HELL did that get to go to No. 1 and “I Don’t Want Your Love” by Duran Duran stops at No. 4, and U2’s “Desire” stops at No. 3?!  For the love of all things holy!  And though I admit enjoying the movie MANNEQUIN, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship?!  Are you kidding me?!  Even Grace Slick denounced that piece of shit.  While the go-to “worst song of the 80s” award is usually 1985’s “We Built This City,” I can tolerate that way more over “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”  Yes, I’m THAT guy.

If I was going for my absolute favorite No. 1 song of the 80s, there’s no competition.  It’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds.  It’s also my all-time favorite song.  But it’s a post I want to save for another time.  So, I thought it would be fun to bring in Hope, my writing hero, who, unlike yours truly, doesn’t obsess and write about nerdy chart facts or Top 40 hits, let alone ones that hit No. 1.  I thought it would be cool to have her choose the song for this post.

don't you

On August 11, 2017, Hope was kind enough to send me her list of her picks for No. 1 songs from the 80s, many of which have been already mentioned in this post!  One of those songs, and a song that is almost universally loved (like “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, or the aforementioned Tears For Fears, Prince and Simple Minds gems) is “Abracadabra” by The Steve Miller Band.abracadabra7

Hope had included “Abracadabra” under the category of “Situational” No. 1 songs.  For Hope, “Abracadabra” was popular during the Summer after her high school graduation (“the glamorous Summer in The Hamptons!”), and she loves the line, “black panties with an angel’s face.”  Who wouldn’t love that line?!  It’s awesome (much like Hope herself)!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Steve Miller formed his Psychedelic Rock / Blues Rock band in San Francisco back in 1966.  Since his first two albums were released in 1968, through to his 1988 Jazz album, BORN 2 B BLUE, Steve Miller had been on Capitol Records, and he had some huge albums in the 70s. 

heart like a wheel

After 1981’s CIRCLE OF LOVE album (with the sweet Top 40 hit and criminally-forgotten gem, “Heart Like A Wheel”) failed to become his fourth consecutive platinum album here in America (though it was certified Gold), Steve was undeterred, got to work, and released the ABRACADABRA album in mid-June 1982.

abracadabra LP

Of the album, ROLLING STONE said, “The essence of good magic is deception, and with the release of this album, Steve Miller has earned the right to twirl his wand and shout, ‘Abracadabra!’”

Well, Steve thought so too, but Capitol wasn’t so sure.  The song inspired by Diana Ross (whom Steve met on a Pop music TV show in the 60s) told THE HOWARD STERN SHOW in 2016 that Capitol Records didn’t see a hit with the song “Abracadabra”:

“Capitol didn’t believe in [“Abracadabra”] and didn’t want to release it.  I had a different deal with Phonogram in Europe.  When it came out in Europe, I cancelled my American tour because it was Number One everywhere in the world, except the States.”  Once again, the record label got it wrong.

Well, after seeing the success of “Abracadabra” overseas, Capitol gave in and released it in the U.S., a month before the ABRACADABRA album was released.  “Abracadabra” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late May 1982 at No. 75, and took just four weeks to debut within the Top 40. 

The next few weeks were a steady climb, and by late July 1982, “Abracadabra” had become Steve Miller’s first Top 10 hit in five years, to the month.  With John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” camped out at No. 2, and Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” camped out at No. 1, “Abracadabra” was stuck at No. 3 for four weeks before it could work its magic on reaching No. 1. 

In early September 1982, after 15 weeks on the chart, “Abracadabra” finally hit No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, giving Steve Miller his third No. 1 U.S. single overall, and his first No. 1 single since 1976’s “Rock’n Me” spent a week on top.  The No. 1 run of “Abracadabra” was just as quick as “Rock’n Me,” and his first No. 1 song, 1974’s “The Joker,” which also spent a lone week at No. 1.

SMB 82

The Steve Miller Band, 1982.

The following week, Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” snuck into the No. 1 position when no one was looking and stayed there for two weeks.  “Abracadabra” dropped to No. 3 (behind previous No. 1, “Eye Of The Tiger”).  But, in a magical chart feat, “Abracadabra” moved back up to No. 2 the next week, and by the end of September, “Abracadabra” reclaimed the No. 1 spot for one more week, before John Mellencamp’s little ditty about “Jack And Diane” started its four-week run at No. 1.  “Abracadabra” stayed on the Hot 100 until mid-Novemer 1982, and left the chart after nearly half a year.  It finished the year at No. 9 here in America. 

Around the globe, “Abracadabra” worked its magic on the singles charts of many countries, reaching No. 1 in Switzerland (six weeks), Sweden (four weeks), Australia and Canada (two weeks), and Austria, No. 2 in the U.K., Germany and Ireland, No. 4 in Norway, No. 8 in New Zealand, and No. 26 in the Netherlands.

“Abracadabra” was the last song The Steve Miller Band placed inside of the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, though they charted several more times through 1993, including the brilliant but oddly-underrated “I Want To Make The World Turn Around” from 1986.

i want to make the world turn around

Steve Miller continues to tour today, and in 2016, he was inducted as a solo artist into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, where he had some not so nice things to say about the whole thing, calling the Hall a “private boys’ club full of fucking gangsters and crooks,” and vowing to make it better. 

SMB 2015

The Steve Miller Band, 2015.

He suggested taking the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame nominating committee, replace every one of them and start over.  I hope it works out, because Devo, from Akron, Ohio (less than an hour south of Cleveland, where the Hall is based), should have been inducted years ago, much like the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, who has taken on Blues, Standards, Folk, Dance and Country music in the past 15 years, not to mention writing a book, winning a Tony Award and co-founding the True Colors Fund, which works to end homelessness among LGBT youth, and even testified before Maine Senator Susan Collins in 2015 about this very subject. 

Steve-Miller-Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Fame-Press-Room-Photo

This photo of Steve at the 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony speaks volumes, and not favorably for the Hall…

As for me and Hope and many others for “Abracadabra,” it’s one of those infectious songs that deserved to go to No. 1, and 35 years later, it still holds up.  At least the five-minute, eleven-second album version.  When the single was released, I bought it, but was instantly pissed it wasn’t the long version!  Sure, it’s only a minute and change difference, but if you hear the single version vs. the album version, you can tell the single version is a bit sped up, and the kick-ass instrumental that closes out the rest of the song isn’t there.  That’s even why I chose the video link below.  It’s not a link to the actual video, but to the album version.  You know, all these years later, I’m still impressed that sped up, edited single version got the song to No. 1.  Maybe that was magic too.

Speaking of magic, Hope inspired me recently to start training for a 5K using the Couch To 5K app (C25K); we’re both training for it, and finishing Week 5 of 8 this weekend!  Hope and I haven’t run a proper 5K in our adult lives, and the last time I ran the equivalent of a 5K was in high school during Cross Country, where I lettered my senior year.  Holy cats, that was 33 years ago! 

run ron run

Post-run workout, 9.7.2017! (With a kick-ass playlist by DJ HopeyT to keep me going!)

But, you know what?  Maybe it’s not magic after all that’s got us training for our first 5K ever – and in our early 50s!  Maybe you just need to believe.  Just like Steve Miller believed he had a hit with “Abracadabra,” even as his longtime record label disagreed – and he was right!  It’s one of THE BEST songs of the 80s and of all-time.  And I believe getting through this 5K (and other aspects of my life) will happen with belief over magic, though I have to say, when it happens, it will feel pretty damn magical and then some…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKCV8gzSlYw

abacadabra poster

song of the day – “Dancing In The Dark” | BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN | 1984.

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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, since the start of June, I have been highlighting songs that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits have gotten bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  With the next post, 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!”

If you listened to AMERICAN TOP 40 as faithfully as I did back in the 80s, before Nos. 2 and 1 were announced, he’d usually take a commercial break before announcing them, and would usually say, “The two biggies are coming right up!”  “The two biggies.”  Always cracked me up and still does.

But, when it came to AMERICAN TOP 40, “the two biggies” were, in fact, a big deal.  There a few positions on the chart that are the most frustrating, like Nos. 101, 41 and 11, but no other peak position on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (or any singles chart, for that matter) was more frustrating to stop at than No. 2.

Foreigner endured the No. 2 position the longest in the 80s, spending 10 weeks in the runner-up spot in 1981 and 1982 with “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” a chart record Foreigner still shares to this day.  And I believe Madonna, who has six No. 2 songs to her credit (four of them in the 80s), still holds the chart record for most No. 2 singles in Hot 100 history.

waiting for a girl like you

All told, nearly 100 songs reached No. 2 between 1979 and 1989, including songs by three Beatles (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison, whose 1981 No. 2 hit, “All Those Years Ago,” was a tribute to John Lennon), two Jacksons (Michael and Janet), and a couple of (real) one-hit wonders, including the Cold War Classic by Nena, “99 Luftballons.”

99 luftballons

danger zoneSome of the biggest songs in history that maybe you thought were No. 1 hits in America were actually No. 2 hits, such as “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, “Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins, “We Got The Beat” by The Go-Go’s, “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant, “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp, “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones and “Purple Rain” by Prince And The Revolution.

Several artists peaked at No. 2 between 1979 and 1989 with two songs, including The Bangles, Culture Club (with their first two hits), Air Supply, Duran Duran, Glenn Frey, Kool & The Gang, John Mellencamp, Billy Ocean (including the guilty pleasure, “Loverboy,” which a DJ back in the day once referred to as “Heavy Metal Disco”; I would disagree), plus Robert Palmer, Pointer Sisters, Linda Ronstadt (in two big duets with James Ingram and Aaron Neville), Tina Turner and Jody Watley. 

loverboy

Michael Jackson gets an honorable mention, as he peaked at No. 2 with “The Girl Is Mine” with Paul McCartney, and he is featured in an uncredited role backing up Rockwell on “Somebody’s Watching Me.”  Likewise with Sheena Easton, who backed up Prince uncredited on “U Got The Look” and had her own No. 2 hit in 1989 with the sexy Dance hit, “The Lover In Me” (a long way from when she took that “Morning Train” to No. 1 in 1981; I’m sure Prince may have had something to do with it).

the lover in me

Speaking of Prince, he had three No. 2 hits between 1979 and 1989, or in this case, 1984 through 1987, with the aforementioned “Purple Rain” and “U Got The Look,” but also with “Raspberry Beret.”  He, too, gets an honorable mention, as he composed the No. 2 hit for The Bangles, “Manic Monday.”

lovesong

And a number longtime recording artists saw their biggest hits stop at No. 2, like The Cure (“Lovesong”), Journey (“Open Arms”), The Greg Kihn Band (“Jeopardy”), and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark.”

If there was any one huge artist in the 80s I wanted to see reach No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart, it was Bruce Springsteen.  I was first introduced to Bruce’s music with 1980’s “Hungry Heart,” from his first No. 1 album, THE RIVER.  At the time, I had no idea he had already released four critically-acclaimed and successful albums.

hungry heart

After “Hungry Heart,” I was a Bruce fan for life – granted, not the superfan that Hope is, but I don’t think anyone loves Bruce’s work more than Hope, except maybe for Bruce’s wife, Patti Scialfa.

“Dancing In The Dark” was released in early May 1984, a month before the BORN IN THE U.S.A. album was released.  And, right out of the gate, it was a hit.  “Dancing In The Dark” blasted onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 the last week of May 1984 all the way into the Top 40, at No. 36.  By the next week, it was already No. 18, with its eyes set on No. 1.

dancing in the dark

Bruce had hit No. 1 before – as a songwriter.  A song from his 1973 debut album, GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J. – “Blinded By The Light” – was recorded by the London Rock band, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, in 1977, and spent a week at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in February 1977, exactly four years to the month when Bruce’s original was released as a single.

bruce blinded

“Dancing In The Dark” had a lot going for it – a popular video directed by Brian de Palma (SCARFACE, THE UNTOUCHABLES, CARRIE, DRESSED TO KILL and the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film) with actress Courtney Cox (FAMILY TIES, FRIENDS) dancing with Bruce on the stage (the video would win the MTV Video Music Award for Best Stage Performance). 

courtney n bruce

It also had a 12” Dance remix courtesy of Arthur Baker (who’s remixed songs for Daryl Hall & John Oates, Afrika Bambaataa, Cyndi Lauper, Pet Shop Boys and New Order).  The “Blaster Mix” was miles away from anything on 1982’s NEBRASKA or 1980’s THE RIVER, but people loved it.  Not only did it reach No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, it was the biggest-selling 12” single for all of 1984.  Arthur Baker would also go on to remix the follow-up Bruce singles “Cover Me” and “Born In The U.S.A.” as well.

blaster mix

As much as “Dancing In The Dark” had going for it in its second week on the Hot 100, another single debuting on the same chart that early June was “When Doves Cry” by Prince, released in advance of the album and film, PURPLE RAIN.  “When Doves Cry” reached the Top 40 a week later, and just like “Dancing In The Dark,” made a big move into the Top 20 the following week.

By late June 1984, “Dancing In The Dark” had climbed to No. 4, while “When Doves Cry” was closing in at No. 8.  The following week, “When Doves Cry” had jumped to No. 3, and “Dancing In The Dark” was at No. 2, right behind Duran Duran’s “The Reflex.”

“When Doves Cry” proved to be too powerful for “Dancing In The Dark,” which stayed for four weeks in the runner-up position.  “When Doves Cry” was the biggest song of 1984 here in America.

when doves cry back

Though “Dancing In The Dark” didn’t reach No. 1, Bruce Springsteen still had a lot to be proud of.  The song gave Bruce his first Grammy Award, winning for Best Rock Vocal Performance.  In the 1984 ROLLING STONE readers poll, “Dancing In The Dark” was voted “Single Of The Year.”  It’s also listed as one of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.”  It sold a million copies in the U.S. alone, and the single’s B-side (one of the best ever), “Pink Cadillac,” was a Top 5 hit for Natalie Cole in 1988.

pink cadillac

Around the globe, “Dancing In The Dark” was an international smash (though in some countries it took awhile), reaching No. 1 in Belgium and the Netherlands, No. 2 in Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden, No. 4 in South Africa and the U.K., No. 7 in Canada and Norway, No. 11 in Finland and No. 12 in Italy.  In Australia, though it stopped at No. 5, it was the No. 1 song of the year, spending 40 weeks on the singles chart there.

“Dancing In The Dark” was just the first part of an amazing journey for Bruce Springsteen and the BORN IN THE U.S.A. album.  Seven out of the album’s 12 songs were released as singles, and all seven reached the Top 10 on the Hot 100 between 1984 and 1986, tying a record set in 1984 by Michael Jackson’s THRILLER album. 

born in the usa LP

BRUCE_SPRINGSTEEN_BORN+IN+THE+USA+-+LONG+BOX-219449b

The first compact disc manufactured in the U.S.A. was BORN IN THE U.S.A.

BORN IN THE U.S.A. was No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart twice, in July / August 1984 and January / February 1985.  PURPLE RAIN may have been the album of the year here in the U.S. for 1984 (BORN IN THE U.S.A. was No. 28), but for 1985, BORN IN THE U.S.A. was the No. 1 album of the year in America (and even No. 16 for 1986).

NERDY FUN FACT: BORN IN THE U.S.A. was the first compact disc manufactured in the U.S. for commercial release.  I remember seeing it at a DeOrsey’s in Waterville, Maine, and think it sold for something like $25.00.  And the record album still sounds better.

NERDY FUN FACT 2: According to a 1984 ROLLING STONE interview, the “Dancing In The Dark” Blaster Mix by Arthur Baker happened because Bruce had heard the remix Arthur did for Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” and he thought it was incredible: “It sounded like fun, so I hooked up with Arthur.  He’s a character, a great guy.  He had another fellow with him, and they were really pretty wild.  They’d get on that mixing board and just crank them knobs, you know?  The meters were goin’ wild.”

cyndi girls

Bruce Springsteen is one of those rare artists who have been on the same record label from the start – Columbia.  Two other Columbia artists instantly come to mind – Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan.  There won’t be anyone else like them.  Ever. 

bob n bruce

Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen (along with many other familiar faces) at the “We Are The World” recording session, 1985.

If you pull away the catchy dance beat, “Dancing In The Dark” is a personal song about the difficulty of writing a hit song and Bruce’s frustration of trying to write songs that will please everyone.  Though I’m thinking Bruce would have liked to have another of his more personal songs become his biggest hit, I would almost bet my record collection he’s alright with that hit being “Dancing In The Dark.”

e st band

Bruce Springsteen with The E Street Band, 1984.

“You can’t start a fire / You can’t start a fire without a spark / This gun’s for hire / Even if we’re just dancing in the dark…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=129kuDCQtHs

bruce 84