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!”
Well, it’s Independence Day here in the U.S. of A. (Happy 241st Birthday America!), and it’s pretty quiet here today in the Central Maine town of Winslow (where I write this). For the first time in 26 years, there’s no Independence Day parade here (my folks’ house is on the parade route), and no fireworks either (my folks’ house is across the street from where they’d normally be set off, in nearby Fort Halifax Park). The damn town didn’t even put up the flags on the telephone poles. I know they have their reasons for not doing the events this year, but I think they could have at least put the flags on the poles for a few weeks leading up to today.
O well. My sister and her family are here from Pennsylvania, and there’s still lots of family in the area, so we all got together for lunch earlier, and my brother was headed to the store to buy fireworks. We’ll see how that goes. Here’s of the favorite pics I took at 2016’s fireworks display (keep in mind I ordinarily don’t take normal fireworks photos; I tend to go for the alt-shots). I called this shot “80s album cover fireworks.”
It’s also 47 years to the day when the inaugural AMERICAN TOP 40 broadcast was aired. Happy Anniversary AT40! That original broadcast (using the BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart dated July 4, 1970) included hits from artists who would continue to have hits in the 80s, like Stevie Wonder, Joe Cocker, Aretha Franklin, The Moody Blues and Chicago, had Rock And Roll royalty on the chart, like Three Dog Night, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Simon & Garfunkel, Sly & The Family Stone, and it had “The Long And Winding Road” by The Beatles. The No. 1 song that week? “The Love You Save” by The Jackson 5.
Between 1979 and 1989, more than 40 songs reached No. 16 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 chart (the chart AT40 used in from 1970 through 1988, when Casey left AT40), and featured several songs by women (I told you’d they’d be back!), including songs by Quarterflash, Pointer Sisters, Sade, Katrina & The Waves (yes, they actually did had more than one hit!), Roberta Flack, and two from both Aretha Franklin and Stevie Nicks.
Songs that reached No. 16 also included four awesome (real) one-hit wonders Bob & Doug McKenzie (“Take Off”), Godley & Creme (“Cry”), Double (“The Captain Of Her Heart”) and French singer Patrick Hernandez (“Born To Be Alive,” which spent 15 weeks at No. 1 in his homeland of France).
Other notable No. 16 hits are Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days,” “Dreaming” by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Electric Light Orchestra’s “I’m Alive” (from XANADU), “Renegade” by Styx, “Rock Of Ages” by Def Leppard, “Synchronicity II” by The Police, “Russians” by Sting, “Super Freak” by Rick James, Duran Duran’s “Save A Prayer” (a song released a few years too late to be a bigger hit here in America), and Madonna’s first single to reach both the Hot 100 and the Top 40, “Holiday.”
Hard to believe, but in the beginning, Madonna signed on for only two 12” singles with Sire Records. I think she was just playing it smart. Her first single, “Everybody,” was released in early October 1982, when she was 24 years old. Though it was a No. 3 hit on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart (a double-A-sided 12” single with “Burning Up”), “Everybody” just missed the BILLBOARD Hot 100, stopping at No. 107.
Though “Everybody” failed to reach the Hot 100, both Sire co-founder Seymour Stein and Madonna were convinced something big was going to happen; maybe not right away, but soon. They were right.
Sire released Madonna’s self-titled debut album in late July 1983, and the first single from the album, “Holiday,” was released in early September 1983. It was produced by her then-boyfriend and future longtime collaborator and remixer, John “Jellybean” Benitez, which would prove to be an incredibly brilliant move.
“Holiday” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 a couple of days before Halloween 1983 at No. 88. Songs by Alabama, Linda Ronstadt and The Stray Cats all debuted higher that week, but “Holiday” would outlast them all.
By early December 1983, Madonna’s first Hot 100 hit became her first Top 40 hit, making a steady climb up the chart until stopping at No. 16 for two weeks in January / February 1984.
Around the globe, “Holiday” enjoyed a nice chart run, and reached the Top 10 in the U.K., Australia, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and even reached No. 25 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.
“Holiday” was still on the chart in March 1984 when her follow-up single, “Borderline,” debuted on the Hot 100. That would go on to become her first Top 10 hit, reaching No. 10 and spending 30 weeks on the chart. Then, “Lucky Star” would go on to reach No. 4 in late October 1984, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Madonna famously performed “Holiday” on AMERICAN BANDSTAND in mid-January 1984 (video link below; for now anyway), a couple of weeks before “Holiday” peaked at No. 16. In the post-song interview, she told Dick Clark how she went to Paris because of “Born To Be Alive” by Patrick Hernandez (another aforementioned member of the No. 16 chart club), and Patrick offered Madonna the opportunity to be a backup singer and dancer on his tour.
In that same January 14, 1984 interview, Dick Clark asked, “We are a couple of weeks into the New Year. What do you hope will happen, not only in 1984 but the rest of your professional life? What are your dreams?” Madonna did not hesitate when she replied, “To rule the world.” And, by the end of 1984, she did just that. “Like A Virgin” ruled the Hot 100 and BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and would rule the Pop charts in Australia, Canada and Japan, and would reach the Top 10 in at least 12 other countries.
QUIRKY CHART FACT: In regards to Madonna’s comment about ruling the world, in the Spring of 1985, Tears For Fears nearly ruled Madonna’s chart world with their huge hit, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” which was No. 1 three songs after her No. 1 hit, “Crazy For You.” (And, when the year-end chart for 1985 was tabulated, “Crazy For You” was ranked No. 9, and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” was ranked No. 8. But, admittedly, 1985 belonged to Madonna on the Pop charts and then some all over the world.)
There have been a number of covers of “Holiday” over the years, including one by Sheffield, England Synthpoppers Heaven 17, who covered it in 1999. A couple of years after the Madonna original, a Dutch Rap duo called MC Miker G & DJ Sven took the backing music of “Holiday” and created a rap over it, calling it (appropriately enough) “Holiday Rap” (which also borrows from Cliff Richard’s 1963 U.K. hit, “Summer Holiday”).
“Holiday Rap” was a huge hit in Europe, topping the charts in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Switzerland, and reaching the Top 10 in the U.K., Australia, Norway and Sweden.
Everyone who knows me knows that Cyndi Lauper is my all-time favorite recording artist, and has been for a long time. Back in the 80s, though, Madonna did rule my Pop music world. I have pretty much every 80s 12” single, every album, and even a VHS of “The Virgin Tour.”
I don’t know when it was, but there was a time back in the 90s (maybe upon my move to Portland, Maine in 1994) when Cyndi became my favorite female recording artist over Madonna. I still loved Madonna’s work, but Cyndi impressed me, even more so in the past 15 years (and not just because Cyndi was kind enough to be my first big interview on my STUCK IN THE 80s radio show).
Since 2002, Cyndi Lauper has released an album of Standards, an Acoustic album, a Dance record, BILLBOARD’s No. 1 Blues album of 2010 (and near-Grammy Winner for Best Traditional Blues album; MEMPHIS BLUES), plus she’s had a reality TV show with her husband and young son, written an autobiography, wrote the score to the musical, KINKY BOOTS (for which she won a Tony Award), and last year, released an album of old Country standards. Her version of Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces” still gives me goosebumps, it’s so damn good. Most importantly, in 2008, Cyndi co-founded the True Colors Fund, a non-profit charity meant to educate folks about LGBT issues and to end LGBT youth homelessness. How is it Cyndi’s not in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame yet?!
In comparison, the last Madonna album I truly loved is now 12 years old (the amazing CONFESSIONS ON A DANCE FLOOR from 2005, which stayed in my car for an entire year). But, irregardless, Madonna (who turns 59 in August 2017) continues to do things on her terms, which has been a covenant of sorts for her since her music career began 35 years ago, and you’ve got to respect that. I certainly do, even if I’m not so much digging the music as of late.
I know “Holiday” isn’t about Independence Day, or any particular holiday, but today, it felt right to share, and yes, I am taking some time to celebrate. You should too. May the 4th (of July) be with you…
“If we took a holiday yeah / Took some time to celebrate / Just one day out of life / It would be so nice…”