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 (and now through July), 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. Sometime here in July, 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!”
The line between male and female Rap and Hip Hop singers and musicians in 2017 is much more unified than it was 30 years ago. And current female Rappers and Hip Hopsters like Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Kim, M.I.A., Eve, Lauren Hill and Alicia Keys prolly wouldn’t have had the success they have now if it hadn’t been for three women out of Queens, NYC – Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton and Deidra “Spinderella” Roper, better known to the world and then some as Salt-N-Pepa.
Formed in 1985, Salt-N-Pepa came onto the music scene when – despite success by The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., Kurtis Blow and Blondie’s “Rapture,” to name a few – a lot of folks in the music industry weren’t entirely convinced Rap was here to stay, which is why Rappers during this time signed on to independent record labels, as opposed to the big labels.
Salt-N-Pepa recorded and released their first album, HOT, COOL & VICIOUS (on the independent Next Plateau Records label) in 1986. The first two singles from the album were minor hits on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, while the third single, “Tramp,” made its way to No. 21 in 1987.
Then something unusual – but not uncommon in chart world – happened. Thanks to a remix by a San Francisco DJ named Cameron Paul, the B-side of “Tramp” eventually became the A-side.
The original version of “Push It” was in fact the B-side of “Tramp,” and once “Push It” was remixed, a push was made to have its own release; a single which gave Salt-N-Pepa the “push” it needed.
“Push It” debuted at No. 77 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late November 1987, the week Billy Idol’s now-forgotten “live” version of the Tommy James classic, “Mony Mony,” spent a week on top, and in turn replacing another Tommy James cover, Tiffany’s Bubblegum Pop version of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” at No. 1 (or, in other words, creamy chart nerdiness for yours truly).
One day after Xmas 1987 (and the last Hot 100 chart of the year), “Push It” had reached the Top 40 at No. 40. A good holiday for the trio, I’m sure. In mid-February 1988, “Push It” had pushed its way to a No. 19 peak for one week, and departed from the Top 40 a month later.
NERDY FUN FACT: The Kinks’ Ray Davies got a songwriting credit for “Push It,” as Salt-N-Pepa reworked a line from “You Really Got Me”: “Boy, you really got me goin’ / You got me so / I don’t know what I’m doin’…” (Salt-N-Pepa used three other samples for “Push It,” including The Time’s 1985 hit, “The Bird.”)
By early April 1988, “Push It” was certified Gold here in the U.S., and left the Hot 100 in mid-May 1988 after 25 weeks. It also reached No. 18 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and No. 28 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.
Around the globe, radio stations and fans pushed “Push It” real good, and “Push It” reached No. 1 in Belgium and the Netherlands, No. 2 in Canada, New Zealand and Sweden, No. 3 in Australia, No. 4 in Norway, No. 6 in Ireland, Spain and Switzerland, and No. 9 in Austria and Germany. Over in the U.K., “Push It” originally peaked at No. 41 (with “Tramp”), but after Salt-N-Pepa performed “Push It” at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday concert, it shot up to No. 2 in the Summer of 1988.
With the success of the remixed version of “Push It,” HOT, COOL & VICIOUS added the remix as the album’s opening track, and it pushed sales of the album to Platinum status. In doing so, it became the first album by a female Rap act (solo OR group) to reach Gold or Platinum here in America.
“Push It” was nominated for a Grammy Award, and on ROLLING STONE’s list of the 500 GREATEST SONGS OF ALL TIME, it ranked at No. 446. Over the years, “Push It” has itself been covered and sampled many times, from the likes of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Gorillaz, Pitbull, and has been featured in a mashup with The Stooges’ “No Fun,” which I now have to hear.
Salt-N-Pepa saw their biggest success in the 1990s, with songs like “Let’s Talk About Sex” and the huge Top 5 hits, “Shoop” and “Whatta Man” with En Vogue, the latter of which is their biggest hit ever in their U.S. homeland. “Shoop” got a big boost in 2016, when it was featured in a funny scene during the kick-ass superhero film, DEADPOOL (released on my birthday in February 2016).
Salt-N-Pepa are still together today, and currently appear on the bill for the popular “I LOVE THE 90s” tour, which is still going on through most of the rest of 2017 (and which made a stop in Bangor, Maine in 2016; my co-workers attended the show and would not stop singing “Shoop”).
You know, there have been times over the past 30 years that I’ve considered “Push It” to be a part-time New Wave song? It’s the keyboards that do it, which are most prominent in the beginning and especially at the end of the song. New Wave-worthy or not, “Push It” has always been a favorite of mine, and it’s one of those rare times where this B-side baby became an A-side classic, and I’m grateful it was pushed real good to get there…