Whenever I think of “lost or forgotten” 80s singles, first I think of Barry Scott, who, for decades, has long-championed those singles from the 60s, 70s and 80s that were once hits but have been mostly forgotten by radio stations for whatever reason. His show is, appropriately titled, THE LOST 45s. Check it out at lost45.com.
In a similar vein, one of the reasons I started my little 80s radio program on WMPG-FM and WMPGorg in Portland, Maine, STUCK IN THE 80s, was so I could bring back some of those songs from the 80s to the airwaves most folks don’t hear much anymore. One of those “lost or forgotten” gems from the 80s, and today’s “song of the day,” is “Fade Away” by Bruce Springsteen.
“Fade Away” was the second single from Bruce Springsteen’s fifth studio album (and first BILLBOARD No. 1 LP), the 2-record set, THE RIVER. Released immediately following the big success of his first Top 10 single ever, “Hungry Heart,” “Fade Away” started off strong, reaching the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in just its third week (on this date – February 21 – in 1981).
But, 3 weeks later, “Fade Away” quickly reached its peak position of No. 20 on the Hot 100, and after 12 total weeks, it faded away from the chart. Bruce wouldn’t hit the Hot 100 again for 4 years, when he rocketed in with “Dancing In The Dark.”
I’ve always wondered with certain songs why they start off so strong, and then just fade away (no pun intended). Was “Fade Away” too slow? Was it the subject matter of pain and lost love? That can’t be it, because there have always been slow songs about pain and lost love. Maybe it’s because “Fade Away” probably wasn’t supposed to be released as the second single. In the U.K. and Europe, the album’s title track was released as the “Hungry Heart” follow-up, while in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it was “Fade Away.”
Paul McCartney would go through the same thing with Columbia Records a few years later when the title track for his album, PIPES OF PEACE, was released as the A-side everywhere but North America, and it reached No. 1 in the U.K. and Ireland, while the North American A-side was “So Bad” – a good song, but it didn’t even crack the BILLBOARD Top 20 on the Hot 100, and one wonders (okay, me) if “Pipes Of Peace” would have been released here, would it have had the same success as abroad? I think it would have; it’s an amazing song.
“Fade Away” is an amazing song, too, but whether or not it was because of its disappointing chart ranking, it wasn’t played much on the original tour for THE RIVER, and was dropped off the concert playlist completely for a long time. Well, with the continuation of the 35th anniversary tour for THE RIVER, Bruce and the E Street Band are playing the album in its entirety, which I’m guessing (and hoping) would include “Fade Away.” Even the E Street’s legendary Steve Van Zandt has said that “Fade Away” is one of his favorite Springsteen songs: “It’s just one of those funny, lost little gems, you know?” Yes, I do know, Little Steven, yes I do…