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).
In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post. On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40. On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1.
As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”
In 1979, the R&B / Dance band, Nu Shooz, formed in “the other” Portland (Portland, Oregon) by the husband and wife team of John Smith and Valerie Day, originally had 12 members to it. Three years later, they released their first album, CAN’T TURN IT OFF. In 1985, their second album, THA’S RIGHT (containing the original version of “I Can’t Wait”), was released on Poolside Records. (No, I haven’t heard of that label either, but Poolside does come into play in a bigger way a year later.)
By 1986, Nu Shooz was just John Smith and Valerie Day, and though the original version of “I Can’t Wait” was a big hit in their Portland, OR hometown, no major record labels wanted to sign them. But, a copy of “I Can’t Wait” somehow found its way to The Netherlands, and it was remixed into what became known as the “Dutch Mix.”
Well, once that version found its way back to America, Atlantic Records was interested in Nu Shooz, and John and Valerie were signed to the label in January 1986. Their third album, POOLSIDE (see what they did there), went Gold, and “I Can’t Wait” became a huge global hit.
The follow-up single to “I Can’t Wait” was “Point Of No Return,” which debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 97 in early July 1986, exactly two months to the day that POOLSIDE was released. “I Can’t Wait” was still in the Top 30.
“Point Of No Return” (which has no relation to the No. 28 Kansas hit from 1978, and spelled “Point of KNOW Return,” and has no relation to the Exposé Top 5 hit from 1987) made a steady climb up the Hot 100, reaching the Top 40 two months after debuting on the chart, and the same week it spent a week at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.
The stop motion music video (featuring a closetful of sneakers and dancing shoes, which ended up dancing in the video) was directed by Wayne Isham. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he directed many memorable 80s videos, including the 1986 version of “Pretty In Pink” by The Psychedelic Furs, “You Know I Love You…Don’t You?” by Howard Jones, “Heat Of The Night” by Bryan Adams, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard, plus many videos by both Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe, including “Home Sweet Home,” which was No. 1 on DIAL MTV for over 90 days in 1987 (though it seemed like much longer, like two years).
Spending a lone week at No. 28 in mid-October 1986, “Point Of No Return” tallied up 22 weeks on the Hot 100, which was an impressive number, considering “I Can’t Wait” was on the chart for 23 weeks, and that reached No. 3.
Around the globe, “Point Of No Return” was a moderate hit, reaching No. 18 in New Zealand, No. 22 in Canada, No. 23 in Switzerland, No. 24 in Germany and No. 48 in the U.K.
Nu Shooz released one more album in the 80s (1988’s TOLD U SO), which was not a big success, though it did give the band one more Hot 100 hit – “Should I Say Yes,” which just missed the Top 40, stopping at No. 41.
After TOLD U SO, a third album scheduled for release on Atlantic in the early 90s was scrapped. In 2007, Nu Shooz was inducted (with 49 other acts, including Quarterflash, the late, great Elliott Smith, and Paul Revere & The Raiders) into the Oregon Music Hall Of Fame.
That same year, John Smith and Valerie Day formed a spin-off band with a sound they defined as “Jazz-Pop-Cinema,” and called themselves, naturally, the Nu Shooz Orchestra. As Nu Shooz Orchestra, they released one album in 2010 called PANDORA’S BOX.
In 2012, Nu Shooz time-traveled back to their 80s style and released the album, KUNG PAO KITCHEN. In 2016, Nu Shooz is now back to at least nine members and back to their roots, and released an album called BAGTOWN. As they say on their website, “Come along with us to a funky soulful place called Bagtown! Fun is the orbit we’re on, and fun is what’s in the bag!” It definitely has funky feel to it. Nice to see them still together and putting out music on their own terms.
I’m sure a lot of folks have forgotten this song (don’t know if they were turned off by the video, which in 2017 looks a bit hokey and dated), but I love this song as much as “I Can’t Wait,” if not a little more…