When you think of the name Donnie Iris, his early 80s Top 40 hits “Ah! Leah!” and “Love Is Like A Rock” most likely come to mind right away. But did you know that Donnie (whose real name is Dominic Ierace) actually wrote a million-selling U.S. hit from 1970? That’s right – Donnie Iris was a member of the 1965-1976 version of the Rock band The Jaggerz, and they hit No. 2 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 this week (3.28) back in 1970 with “The Rapper.” It was one of the biggest hits of the year.
Did you also know that Donnie Iris was a member of the band famous for their No. 1 hit from 1976, “Play That Funky Music?” Yepper, Donnie was in the band Wild Cherry for one year, and one album – 1979’s ONLY THE WILD SURVIVE, which proved to be the band’s last.
The following year, 1980, Donnie started a solo career that would keep him busy to this day. With his band, The Cruisers, Donnie released his first album, BACK ON THE STREETS. The first single from the album debuted on the Hot 100 in late December 1980 and would spend 2 weeks at a peak of No. 29 in late February / early March 1981 – “Ah! Leah!”
The success of “Ah! Leah!” (especially on Rock stations) and BACK ON THE STREETS prompted the quick release of his second album, KING COOL, released in August 1981. That album gave him 2 more Top 40 hits, “Love Is Like A Rock” (No. 37, February 1982) and his highest-charting hit (and forgotten gem), “My Girl” (No. 25, May / June 1982).
After Donnie’s third album, 1982’s THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, didn’t do that well, he quickly released his fourth album, 1983’s FORTUNE 410, which did a bit better, and produced today’s “song of the day” – “Do You Compute?”
Donnie’s label, MCA Records and Atari, interestingly enough, used “Do You Compute?” to promote the Atari 1200XL Home Computer, which was used in posters for the album and single, and the computer (March 1983 starting price – $899.00) even appears in the song’s video.
The less expensive Atari 800 proved to be a better fit for consumers, and the 1200XL was discontinued three months after its release, nearly 2 months before “Do You Compute?” spent a week at its peak position of No. 64 on the Hot 100 (in late July 1983).
I’m nearly certain that “Do You Compute?” and its cross-promotional video for Atari had nothing to do with the disappointing sales (and demise) of the 1200XL computer. MCA Records, on the other hand, didn’t like where the band was headed, and wanted to bring in a different producer than Donnie’s longtime producer, Mark Avsec, who not only co-founded the Cruisers with Donnie, but was a member of the band as well. Donnie Iris was not interested in replacing his friend with another producer and wanted to keep their creative freedom and sound. MCA wasn’t interested in that idea and dropped the band after four albums.
The dissolution of the experience with MCA Records didn’t deter Donnie Iris and The Cruisers – they are still performing, and have since released seven more albums between 1985 and 2010, the most recent album being a Christmas album, with one of THE best titles inspired from a hit song EVER – AH! LELUIAH!
The Pennsylvania-born rocker and his band hit the BILLBOARD Hot 100 a total of 7 times between 1980 and 1985. I am a Donnie Iris fan, and his singles are oft-requested on my 20-year-old radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (Sunday nights on WMPG-FM and WMPG.org), but it was his penultimate hit – “Do You Compute?” – that remains my favorite to this day, basically for no other reason that it really just computed for me…