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!”
I may have mentioned this before in this series, but I have to say it’s been totally fun revisiting songs that peaked at each position of the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 from 1979 through 1989, and interesting how, as the chart peaks get higher (or the numbers get lower, take your pick), the number of songs that peaked at each position gets higher as well (or interesting to me, anyway).
More than 50 songs peaked at No. 18 between 1979 and 1989, and strangely, only 1/5 of those were by women (a ratio that will increase I’m sure as I continue the series), included three (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s, and two songs from Daryl Hall & John Oates (although, I think maybe Hall & Oates peaked at every position in the Top 40; prolly not, but sure seems like it!).
Out of the 50+ choices for this blog post, it was a close contest between “Walking On A Thin Line,” the fifth and final single from the monster album, SPORTS, by Huey Lewis & The News (a song about the post-war stress for vets coming home from the Vietnam War), “Sidewalk Talk” by Jellybean (written by Madonna, who sings backing vocals) and Rick Springfield’s “Human Touch” (THE most-requested Rick Springfield song on my former radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s, even more-requested than “Jessie’s Girl”)…
…but when I saw Jermaine Jackson’s “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy” on the list, the contest was over.
When you think of Jermaine Jackson 80s solo hits, what songs come to mind first? “Let’s Get Serious” (written by Stevie Wonder)? “Dynamite?” “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming” (with his brother, Michael Jackson)? I’m betting all of the above. I’m also betting “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy” was not on most people’s radar, then or now.
“Let Me Tickle Your Fantasy” was the title track of Jermaine Jackson’s 1982 album, his final album for Motown Records. Jermaine had stayed on with Motown after his other brothers left the label in the 70s, moved over to Epic and renamed themselves The Jacksons (Jermaine would rejoin them on The Jacksons’ 1984 album and tour, VICTORY).
The most unusual and fun fact about the song “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy” is that Devo sings backing vocals on it. It’s one of the coolest one-time collaborations out there. Devo had come off of their big 1980 hit, “Whip It,” released NEW TRADITIONALISTS in 1981 and were about to release OH NO! IT’S DEVO in November 1982.
Believe it or not, Jermaine Jackson actually sought Devo out for this collaboration. In a 1984 interview, Jermaine mentioned how he was getting into what he called “Modern Music” (i.e. New Wave), and loved the creativity Devo had in their videos. When Jermaine called them up to see if they’d sing on “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy,” they didn’t think he was serious. But that’s what Jermaine wanted: “When it’s just off the wall like that, if it’s great, it’s gonna make it the biggest thing ever.”
They both came from Midwestern cities (Jermaine from Gary, Indiana, Devo from Akron, Ohio), and the collaboration – though not the biggest thing ever, paid off, and more curiously, they actually sounded great and natural together.
The LET ME TICKLE YOUR FANCY album was released in early July 1982, and it did not take long for the “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy” single to reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100, debuting at No. 75 only a couple weeks later. “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy” landed in the Top 40 about a month later, on its way to a No. 18 peak for two weeks in September / October 1982. It also reached No. 5 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.
I’m unsure as to why, but an entire year after “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy” left the Hot 100, Jermaine (joined by “Spud and Pud Devo” – Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale) appeared on a Dick Clark-produced Halloween special called A MAGICAL, MUSICAL HALLOWEEN. Other musical guests included Billy Joel, Toni Basil, Eddie Money and William Shatner. Still, the performance is interesting to watch (the sound isn’t great and it’s kinda dark, but the video link is at the end of the post).
I love it when recording artists unite for just one song, whether it turns out to be a killer hit or just a fun thing to do. The KLF and Tammy Wynette teamed up back in 1991 for “Justified & Ancient” (a song whose origins date back to 1987). Madonna and Prince teamed up for “Love Song” (on her 1989 LIKE A PRAYER album), and of course there’s the brilliant “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, to name a few.
Two other No. 18 hits in the 80s had great one-time collaborations as well – “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” by Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin, and (real) one-hit wonder Clarence Clemons, who got some help from Jackson Browne on “You’re A Friend Of Mine.”
For most who remember the song, the quirky pairing of Jermaine Jackson and Devo is what folks remember the most about “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy.” And while it prolly didn’t get any woman to tickle Jermaine’s fancy, I will forever remember it for being a really fun, albeit mostly-forgotten song…