song of the day – “Fool In The Rain” | LED ZEPPELIN | 1980.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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).american-top-40-casey-kasem

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!”

Folks of a certain age (yours truly included) remember junior high school dances always concluded with the double dose of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.”  Every single dance.  It’s like, in the late 70s and early 80s, there was a DJ requirement to play those two songs back-to-back at the end of every school dance.  Maybe it was also because the combined time of the studio album versions of both songs were 17 minutes long, a good amount of time to get all your albums and shit together, with minimal clean up after the dance was done, so you could zip right out of there.  Unfortunately, for me, it was 17 minutes of much suckage.  I don’t recall this wallflower ever dancing to either of those classics at a junior high dance.

birdvsheaven

“Bird” vs. “Heaven,”or Skynyrd vs. Zep.  For decades, one can’t escape the other. Prolly the way it’ll always be…

It’s funny – I remember my junior high dances way more than my high school dances.  I can’t even remember if “Free Bird” and “Stairway To Heaven” were even played.  I also wonder if this DJ requirement to play both of these songs helped propel them to the top of annual radio station holiday countdowns.  To this day, they both usually find themselves in the Top 10 of every countdown, if not the Top 5 or Top 3.  (I just checked out a recent list by one of Portland, Maine’s Classic Rock stations, and they had “Free Bird” at No. 1, and “Stairway To Heaven” at No. 2.  What rebels.)

What can I say about Led Zeppelin that hasn’t been already said before?  I wouldn’t call them the Godfathers of Heavy Metal (most would say that distinction goes to Black Sabbath), but Led Zep sure did have a hand in it.  They were one of THE BIGGEST Rock groups of all time, and were rightfully inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1995, where, at the museum, Led Zeppelin is stated as being “as influential” in the 1970s as The Beatles were in the 1960s. 

2000px-Led_Zeppelin_logo.svg

Any non-believers yet?  Led Zeppelin released just nine studio albums between 1969 and 1982, and every single album went platinum, and every single album reached the Top 10.  Actually, no Led Zep album charted lower than No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s album chart, and that was the first album.  The only albums that didn’t hit No. 1 were their self-titled debut, LED ZEPPELIN IV (this surprised me), and 1982’s CODA, which was released two years after the band broke up, due to the death of drummer John Bonham.

Still some non-believers out there?  You fools!  Four (of nine) Led Zeppelin studio albums (and one box set) have been certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as Diamond certifications.  What qualifies as a Diamond certification?  Sales of more than 10 million copies (with multiple sets counting for each disc in the set).  In the U.S. alone.  These albums are 1969’s LED ZEPPELIN II (12x Platinum), 1971’s LED ZEPPELIN IV (the third biggest-selling albums of all-time here in America, 23x Platinum), 1973’s HOUSES OF THE HOLY (11x Platinum), 1975’s double-album PHYSICAL GRAFFITI (16x Platinum), and 1990’s 4-disc LED ZEPPELIN BOX SET (10x Platinum).

zep box set

London’s Led Zeppelin – singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist / keyboardist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham – had already been around for 11 years when I discovered them in 1979, and it wasn’t “Stairway To Heaven” or “Black Dog” or “Kashmir” or “Whole Lotta Love” that sucked me in – its was all “Fool In The Rain,” from their eighth studio album, IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR.

The album was released in mid-August 1979, and was housed in what looked like a brown paper bag.  I still have mine, though after nearly 40 years, it’s looking a lot like a brown paper bag that’s been around for 40 years.

in thru the paper bag

IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR only took two weeks to reach No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart, and not only spent seven weeks at No. 1, but sold three million copies by the end of September.  Pretty impressive for 1979.  Actually, pretty impressive for 2017 too – a total like that now could land an album at No. 1 for the entire year.

“Fool In The Rain,” the only single released from IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR, was released in early December 1979, more than a month after IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR finished its seven-week run at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart.

in thru the out door

It was not your typical Rockin’ Led Zeppelin song.  According to a piece in ROLLING STONE about the band’s 40 Greatest Songs Of All Time, “Fool In The Rain” (ranked at No. 24) came about when Robert Plant and John Paul Jones head a Samba song while watching the 1978 World Cup, and that influenced the Latin-jam middle section.  Jimmy Page called “Fool In The Rain” “a springboard for what could have been” (of course, referring to the sad death of John Bonham, who died 13 months after the release of IN THROUGH THE OUT DOOR).

fool in the rain 2

An Italian version of the “Fool In The Rain” single.

“Fool In The Rain” (musically, one of the best songs I’ve ever heard) is a song about a guy who is supposed to meet up a woman on a particular street corner.  When the woman doesn’t show up, he is disappointed about being stood up.  Well, by the final verse of the song, the guy realizes that he didn’t go to the right place, making him “just a fool waiting on the wrong block.”

fool in the rain 1

The Japanese version of “Fool In The Rain.”

The song only took a couple of weeks to debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, debuting on the last official chart of 1979 at No. 64, and reached the Top 40 in its fourth chart week.  It went on to spend a couple of weeks at its peak position at No. 21 in late February 1980, was the last Led Zeppelin single released commercially (they didn’t release many), and the last (of six) to reach the Top 40.

They say you never forget your first love, and I suppose that could apply to music as well.  I know I’ll be forever grateful that “Fool In The Rain’ was my introduction to Led Zeppelin, and that unlikely hit that turned me on to them for the rest of my life, even if it didn’t work out too well for the guy in the song…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp-LBD_q0sQ

led zep 79

song of the day – “One Way Or Another” | BLONDIE | 1979.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014 (three years ago today), 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).american-top-40-casey-kasem

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!”

I remember hearing about Casey’s death during a trial run at a commercial radio station out of my hometown, Bar Harbor, Maine.  I was pre-recording some voice tracks to be played on the air that Sunday afternoon, and saw it pop up on the news feed on a computer in the station’s main on-air studio.  My heart sank.  I knew Casey hadn’t been well, but I had hoped he’d live much longer than he did, though 82 was a long life, and what a life it was.

Due to a communication snafu, it never worked out with that radio station, but at the very least, I got to at pay tribute to him on the air at that station, if only for a moment.  It’s the least I could do for a man who did so much for me – through music – all those years ago.  Like John Hughes, Casey Kasem is one of the most-influential people for me with music that I DIDN’T meet.

A couple of Sundays later, I did get to pay tribute to Casey with the first of three annual 2-hour radio shows in his memory on STUCK IN THE 80s, and that featured nothing but music from 1979 through 1989 and reached the American Top 40.  My theme song for each annual show was M’s No. 1 hit from 1979, “Pop Muzik,” which, to this day, I maintain is a song that epitomized the music of a decade – NOT the decade it came from, but the next one.  And, I couldn’t think of a better name for these tribute shows than LONG DISTANCE DEDICATION.

long distance dedication 6.29.14

One of the artists played on that show (and many other shows over the course of STUCK IN THE 80s’ 20+ years) was Blondie, who just released their eleventh studio album, the excellent and Rockin’ POLLINATOR.

pollinator

By early 1979, Blondie had released three albums, with the latest one, PARALLEL LINES (which was released in September 1978), slowly climbing the BILLBOARD album chart.  Blondie’s self-titled 1976 debut album didn’t even reach the album chart here in the U.S., and their second album, PLASTIC LETTERS (released in February 1978), reached No. 72. 

The first U.S. single released from PARALLEL LINES – “I’m Gonna Love You Too” – ran parallel to the album’s September 1978 release, but the only places it became a hit was in Belgium and in The Netherlands.  Second single “Hanging On The Telephone” is a revered Punk / New Wave classic, but again, it failed to make a dent here in America, though it was a Top 5 U.K. hit.

Though it may sound like a cliché sometimes, like the saying goes, “third time’s a charm,” and in the case of singles released from PARALLEL LINES, the ol’ saying proved to be right for Blondie to finally break through in their homeland of the U.S. of A.

parallel lines

“Heart Of Glass” was released in January 1979, and by mid-February, it debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 way down at No. 84.  10 weeks later, it spent a lone week at No. 1, helped PARALLEL LINES climb to No. 6 on the BILLBOARD album chart (becoming their first Platinum album), and reached No. 1 in at least seven other countries – and in the process, united both Punk and Disco fans alike – no easy trick.  I can’t think of any other song that truly did that.

heart of glass

After the worldwide success of “Heart Of Glass,” Blondie’s record label, Chrysalis, released “Sunday Girl” in May 1979…but not here in the U.S., despite the fact “Sunday Girl” spent three weeks at No. 1 in the U.K. and four weeks at No. 1 in Ireland.  (Thanks Chrysalis, you crusty jugglers!  Just because the first two singles didn’t work out here didn’t mean “Sunday Girl” wouldn’t have charted!)

sunday girl

For the fourth single released here in the U.S. and in Canada, Chrysalis released “One Way Or Another,” a song inspired by one of Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriends who had stalked her after they broke up.  (Boy, you don’t wanna mess with Debbie, man!  I believe it when she says she’ll “get’cha, get’cha, get’cha, get’cha!”)

“One Way Or Another” (which, oddly enough, was NOT released as a single outside of the U.S. or Canada) was more Punk and Rock-friendly than Disco friendly, although I don’t know anyone in the ‘Verse who wouldn’t want to dance to this gem.  It’s infectious and instantly invites you to move.

blondie-1

Debuting on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early June 1979 (with “Heart Of Glass” still in the Top 15), “One Way Or Another” found its way onto the Top 40 four weeks after its debut, entering the Top 40 at the end of June at No. 35.  It inched up another notch the following week, and then for some weird reason, fell out of the Top 40 down to No. 41. 

In an even weirder chart move (and one I’m sure Casey Kasem loved to talk about), the following week, “One Way Or Another” roared back into the Top 40 from No. 41 to No. 29, a feat more commonplace in the Digital Age of the Hot 100 today, but back in 1979, to make such a dramatic turnaround on the chart was quite rare.

And that would be the last of the rare, big moves for “One Way Or Another,” as two weeks later, in early August 1979, it would spend the first of two weeks at No. 24.  Two weeks after departing the Top 40, it was gone from the Hot 100 completely.  In Canada, “One Way Or Another” fared better, reaching No. 14.

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

The 1979 poster of Debbie Harry (photo taken by Chris Stein) that has eluded me for almost 40 years now…

The legacy of “One Way Or Another” didn’t stop there, though.  It’s been covered since by the likes of The Black Eyed Peas, Alvin And The Chipmunks, the cast of GLEE, and in 2013, the popular British boy band, One Direction, who did a mashup of “One Way Or Another” with “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones – and titled “One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks)” – and released a single in support of Comic Relief.  It was, like One Direction and Blondie before them, a global sensation, and reached No. 1 in at least five countries.  In the process, the original “One Way Or Another” squeaked onto the U.K. singles chart (through digital sales) at No. 98, its first appearance on that chart, and not bad for a 34-year-old song.

“One Way Or Another” has recently been in a number of commercials as of late (I think I heard it in two different commercials back-to-back, in fact), and in ROLLING STONE’s 2006 list of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, “One Way Or Another” was ranked at No. 298.

chris debbie clem 2013

Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Clem Burke, 2013.

Though I didn’t initially warm up to “One Way Or Another” as I did with “Heart Of Glass” or “Dreaming,” which would chart a couple of months after “One Way Or Another,” the song grew on me (how could it not?), and I really loved seeing Debbie and Blondie belt this out when my dear friend Shawn (formerly of Maine and NYC) and I saw them in New York back in October 2013.

blondie wkrp 1

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention part of the reason PARALLEL LINES did as well as it did.  The album was released the same month as my second all-time favorite TV show, WKRP IN CINCINATTI.  The show was instrumental in not only the success of the album, but its use of “Heart Of Glass” really helped it to become the big hit it was, and the band’s record label, Chrysalis, presented the producers of WKRP with an authentic Gold RIAA record award for PARALLEL LINES, and it hung on the wall of the station’s “bullpen” for the remainder of the series.  (While I don’t entirely forgive Chrysalis for not releasing “Sunday Girl” here, I thought it was a rare and wonderful and unusual gesture presenting a fictional radio station with a real Gold record.)

blondie wkrp 2

You know, some fans of Casey Kasem and AT40 might disagree, but in listening to some of Casey’s older 1970s AMERICAN TOP 40 countdowns on iHeart Radio (he started AT40, appropriately enough, on July 4, 1970, at the age of 38), I think Casey really started hitting his stride with AT40 in 1979 (though I may be biased, considering that’s the year I really started getting into music).  Maybe that’s what compelled me to keep tuning in week after week, year after year, and as often as I can, three years after his death, on the Interweb.

at80s2I’ve been involved with mostly community and college radio for the better part of 30 years, and in my short-lived time on a commercial station here in Central Maine back in 2008, one of my all-time proudest moments in radio is going on at 10:00 on Saturday mornings, following my radio hero, Casey Kasem, and rebroadcasts of AMERICAN TOP 40.

Though I’ve preferred Alternative, New Wave and Alt-Dance to Top 40 for a long time now, I don’t think I would have ever have had the appreciation for music I do today if it hadn’t been for Casey Kasem.

I miss you, Casey, wherever you are, and I promise to keep reaching for those stars…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m74w9x07DhU

one way or another

  

song of the day – “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” | U2 | 1984.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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).american-top-40-casey-kasem

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!”

It’s June 6, 2017, and I didn’t have the best day today.  It happens.  In late 1984, Casey Kasem wasn’t having a good day during the recording of a segment of AMERICAN TOP 40.  I’ll come back to that in a bit.  But, Casey’s bad day was a good day for Dublin, Ireland’s U2. 

With their first three albums – 1980’s BOY, 1981’s OCTOBER and 1983’s WAR – U2 was slowly building an audience here in America.  All three albums sold well here in the U.S., especially WAR (now at 4x Platinum), which reached No. 12 on BILLBOARD’s Album chart.

My introduction to U2 happened somewhere between WAR and when I picked up the live “mini-album,” UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY, in July 1984.  And, apart from some of their most recent efforts, I’ve been a huge fan since, but I don’t think it really happened for me until I picked up their fourth studio album, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE.

the unforgettable fire

Released on October 1, 1984, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE took the band in a new music direction from the edgier, more raw sound of their first three albums.  U2’s first three albums were produced by the great Steve Lillywhite (who worked with many artists in the 80s like Big Country, Peter Gabriel and XTC, to name a few), but, in order to achieve this newer sound, THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE was co-produced by legends in their own right, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. 

Bassist Adam Clayton once said about the change in producers, “We were looking for something that was a bit more serious, more arty.”  The powers that be at U2’s record label, Island, tried to encourage them NOT to work with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, but U2 was persistent.  And, in the end, it paid off.

The first single released from THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE was “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and was released in early September 1984, a month before the release of the album.

PRIDE front

Prior to “Pride,” U2 had reached the Top 5 of Ireland’s singles chart four times, reaching No. 2 twice – with “New Year’s Day” and “Two Hearts Beat As One.”  Over on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, U2 had only seen a couple of their singles reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100: “New Year’s Day” (No. 53, 1983) and a live version of “I Will Follow” (No. 81, 1984).  “Two Hearts Beat As One” just missed the survey, stopping at No. 101.

“Pride (In The Name Of Love)” became the band’s third single to reach the Hot 100, debuting in late October 1984 at No. 85.  Within four weeks, it became their biggest U.S. hit to that point, and on December 1, 1984, “Pride” reached the Top 40.  It would spend a week at No. 33 two weeks later, and stayed on the Hot 100 until early February 1985.

Around the globe, folks were proud for “Pride” and it was U2’s first big worldwide hit, reaching No. 1 in New Zealand, No. 2 in Ireland, No. 3 in the U.K., No. 4 in Australia, No. 5 in Holland, No. 7 in Norway, No. 12 in Sweden and No. 33 in Canada (must have been a North American thing).

NERDY FUN FACT: The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, married to Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr in 1984, sang backing vocals on “Pride (Is The Name Of Love),” and was credited on the song as “Mrs. Christine Kerr.”

Now back to Casey Kasem’s bad day back in 1984.  Apparently, during the recording of an American Top 40 countdown (I believe the week when U2 debuted on the Top 40 at No. 39 on December 1, 1984), in AT40-ese, Casey dropped a couple of notches.  As he was listing off U2’s members, he got frustrated and said, “These guys are from England and who gives a shit?!”

In 1991, this sample and other vocal and more profane samples by Casey over the years found their way onto the EP of San Francisco Experimental band Negativland.  The U2 EP was notorious for highlighting “U2” in huge letters and “Negativland” in very small letters underneath it, with an image of a Lockheed U-2 spy plane in the foreground of “U2.”

U2 EP

On this U2 EP were a couple different mixes of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” with those Casey Kasem samples (including his famed “Long Distance Dedication,” thrown in there as well).  These covers were more parodies than covers (kazoos were involved, as were bits and pieces and samples of the original U2 song).  Regardless of whether or not they were covers, U2 was not impressed and Island Records sued Negativland for a violation of trademark law, not just for the huge “U2” on the EP, but for the song itself.

Island Records also believed it was a deliberate attempt to confuse U2 fans awaiting the new U2 release, ACHTUNG BABY, making them believe they were purchasing a new U2 album called NEGATIVLAND.  The EP was withdrawn, but the tracks resurfaced on a legally-released album a decade later (with bonus material) as THESE GUYS ARE FROM ENGLAND AND WHO GIVES A SHIT?

these guys are from england

Negativland’s interest is in intellectual property rights.  They argued that their use of U2’s and other artists’ work falls under the “fair use” clause.  They released a CD in 1995, along with an accompanying book about this whole U2 experience, called, FAIR USE: THE STORY OF THE LETTER U AND THE NUMERAL 2 (Of U2’s name, Casey Kasem described it on AMERICAN TOP 40 as “That’s the letter U and the numeral 2.”) 

fair use

“Pride” was originally written about Ronald Reagan’s pride in the USA’s military power, but Bono was influenced by Stephen B. Oates’s 1982 book, LET THE TRUMPET SOUND: A LIFE OF MARTING LUTHER KING, JR., as well as a biography about Malcolm X, examining the violent and non-violent sides of the civil rights campaigns of the 60s.  Lead singer and lyricist Bono rewrote the lyrics to “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” and it ended up being about Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRIDE back

Hard to think about now, but oddly enough, at the time of its release, “Pride” got mixed critical reviews.  Kurt Loder, who reviewed THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE in 1984 (and would later join MTV), gave the album three out of five stars, and said of “Pride”: 

“One would like to be able to summon praise for such well-intentioned tracks as ‘Pride (In the Name of Love),’ which was inspired by Martin Luther King, but ‘Pride’ gets over only on the strength of its resounding beat (a U2 trademark) and big, droning bass line, not on the nobility of its lyrics, which are unremarkable.”

Well, reviews for both THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE and for “Pride” only improved with time, and ROLLING STONE ranked it as No. 388 on their 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time list, and it’s also included on the list of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll. 

And prolly the best review of all?  When the song came out, the late, great Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. King, invited the band to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, which they visited during their 1984 tour.

Maybe Casey Kasem didn’t give U2 much thought when “Pride” came out, but he changed his tune (pun intended) the next time U2 made the Top 40 – when THE JOSHUA TREE’s “With Or Without You” spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in May 1987.

As for me?  Well, when I bought UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY, I was curious about the band so many people were raving about.  And I loved the album.  When I bought THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE, I would never forget U2 again…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHcP4MWABGY

U284

song of the day – “Me Myself And I” | DE LA SOUL | 1989.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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).

american-top-40-casey-kasem

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!”

shadoejune88ad

An ad for AMERICAN TOP 40 with Shadoe Stevens, 1988.  Nothing against Shadoe, but this made me sad.

By the Fall of 1988, due to contractual issues with ABC Watermark, Casey Kasem sadly left the show he created in 1970 to start another show, Casey’s Top 40.  With no 29-year-old offense intended at AT40’s replacement host, Shadoe Stevens, I listened for one or two weeks after Casey left, and it just wasn’t the same.  But for this tribute to Casey, I’m still sticking with the 80s format, and will feature a number of songs from August 1988 through December 1989, or post-Casey on American Top 40.  Here’s one of those songs. 

De La Soul, the Hip Hop / Rap trio formed Long Island, New York, in 1987 (while still in high school) and are still together 30 years later.  Consisting of members Posdnous (real name Kevin Mercer), Dave (David Jude Jolicoeur) and Maseo (Vincent Mason), De La Soul came onto the music scene a couple of years later with their debut album, 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING, and right out of the gate, they were heralded for their impressive contributions to Jazz Rap and Alt-Hip Hop, their fun wordplay and their revolutionary sampling (on this album alone, they sample anything from Daryl Hall & John Oates to Johnny Cash to Steely Dan to The Turtles to Richard Pryor to Liberace to Wilson Pickett to Billy Joel).

3 feet high

3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of 1989, making it onto many publications’ Top 10 lists that year, including ROLLING STONE (#5), MELODY MAKER (#10), plus other notable accolades from SPIN (#7, 100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005), VILLAGE VOICE (“The Sgt. Pepper of Hip Hop”), NEW MUSIC EXPRESS (NME) (“One of the greatest albums ever made”) and famed music critic Robert Christgau said 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was “unlike any rap album you or anybody else has heard.”

Another thing that 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING had in its favor was its tone.  In 1989, Gangsta Rap was taking off, and De La Soul went in a different direction, a more positive spin on Rap, promoting peace and harmony, as opposed to violence and substance abuse and then some.  And, because of it, both De La Soul and the album were well-received.  3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was certified Platinum and spent five weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s R&B / Hip Hop chart.  In Robert Christgau’s VILLAGE VOICE review of the album, he said that De La Soul is “New Wave to Public Enemy’s Punk.”

3 FEET HIGH AND RISING was released in mid-March 1989, but it took about three months for the album’s first single, “Me Myself And I,” to reach the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  On June 3, 1989, the week it debuted on the Hot 100, it was No. 1 for a week on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.  The following week, it was No. 1 for a week on BILLBOARD’s R&B / Hip Hop chart. 

Prior to its Hot 100 debut, “Me Myself And I” was the second song to reach No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s then-new Rap Singles chart.  It spent eight weeks at No. 1 on that chart.

me myself and i

“Me Myself And I,” with its quirky video set in a high school guidance office and then a classroom, helped propel the song up the Hot 100, though it was an unusual chart run.  Just three weeks on the chart, it jumped from No. 72 to No. 49.  But, for whatever reason, the following week, it quickly held the No. 49 position, only to move back up the week after.

randee of the mtv

QUIRKY FUN FACT: The MTV character, Randee of the Redwoods (played by actor and comedian Jim Turner from 1987 through 1990) appears briefly in the music video for “Me Myself And I.”  Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammed of A Tribe Called Quest also make cameo appearances. 

In its sixth week on the Hot 100, “Me Myself And I” was already certified Gold (pretty impressive for a song that hadn’t yet reached the Top 40), but retreated back from No. 43 to No. 45.  And, once again, the following week, it regained its bullet and climbed back up.

Eight weeks into its chart run, in late July 1989, “Me Myself And I” bounded into the Top 40 at No. 34, but that is where it would peak for one week, and it spent three total weeks in the Top 40.  “Me Myself And I” (which incorporates five samples of songs from Funkadelic to Ohio Players) bowed out of the Hot 100 after 17 weeks.

“Me Myself And I” picked up an audience around the globe as well, reaching No. 1 in Holland for two weeks, plus No. 7 in Belgium, No. 16 in Germany, and the Top 30 in the U.K., Austria and Switzerland.  It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance.

The legacy of “Me Myself And I” in the history of Rap / Hip Hop and music altogether continues today.  In addition to being featured in commercials and video games, the song is included in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.”

de la soul 2017

De La Soul, still together 30 years later…

De La Soul has now released a total of nine studio albums, including 2016’s AND THE ANONYMOUS NOBODY… album, which featured a number of guest performers, including David Byrne.  One reviewer called the album “one of the most thrilling, wide-ranging Rap releases of the year,” and this year, it gave the trio their first Grammy nomination since 2006.

MusicAlbumsLA_DeLaSoul

Those who know me know I’m not really into most Rap music, so I never really kept up on De La Soul, but I’m so glad they are still together and still promoting that more peaceful, traditional Hip Hop alternative to Rap from a lot of the (C)rap that’s out there.  And, though I don’t really know them, from what I’ve read, they seem like the real deal.

As for “Me Myself And I,” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this song.  I know folks were into Goth back then and who loved this song.  There was just something about it, and still is…

“De La Soul is from the soul / And this fact I can’t deny…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJEzEDMqXQQ

de la soul

song of the day #2 – “Fake Friends” | JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS | 1983.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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).american-top-40-casey-kasem

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!”

It’s been interesting and fun in my research for the blog posts of this special series paying tribute to Casey Kasem.  Some might say it’s neither interesting NOR fun, but since Casey is my radio hero, and since I still am, at age 50, a proclaimed and proud chart nerd (I still check out the BILLBOARD Hot 100 each week, even though I don’t know most of the artists on there), I am digging this.  No, literally, today I AM digging into BILLBOARD chart history by looking up all of the songs that reached No. 35 between 1979 and 1989, and there are around 40 of them.  You could have Casey on repeat, saying, “And in at No. 35…and in at No. 35…”

If you look at the discography of the amazing Joan Jett, you can tell she had a penchant for cover songs, and then making them all her own – songs like “Crimson And Clover,” “Everyday People,” “Light Of Day,” “Roadrunner,” “Dirty Deeds,” “Love Hurts,” “Summertime Blues,” “Destination Unknown,” “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” and her huge No. 1 hit, “I Love Rock ’N’ Roll” – all of these gems were actually cover songs, whether you knew that or not (I’m betting you did).

album

For Joan’s third album, however (an album simply titled ALBUM), she took a different route – all but three of the album’s 11 songs were original songs, co-written by Joan and her longtime collaborator and producer, Kenny Laguna.  “I Love Playing With Fire” was actually written by Joan herself, but this song originally was performed by Joan’s former 70s Punk band, The Runaways.  One of the original songs on ALBUM was the effort’s first single (and album, er, ALBUM, opener), “Fake Friends.” 

fake friends 2

Debuting on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 68 in early July 1983, “Fake Friends”  reached the Top 40 by the end of July, becoming the band’s fifth Top 40 hit in two years, and their first original composition to reach the Top 40.  But, like many songs that reach the Top 40 in a short amount of time, for whatever reason, the songs lose steam and they peak quickly.  In the case of “Fake Friends,” it peaked for two weeks at No. 35 in August 1983.  Joan and Co. were gone from the Hot 100 after just 10 weeks. 

After ALBUM’s second single, the aforementioned spirited cover of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” peaked at No. 37 in October 1983, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts wouldn’t return to the Top 40 until 1987, when the Bruce Springsteen-composed “Light Of Day” reached No. 33 on the Hot 100 in April of that year. 

light of day

“Light Of Day” was the title song from the film of the same name, starring Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett, her first film as an actress.  Michael and Joan starred as brother and sister, and their band was called The Barbusters.  On the Hot 100, “Light Of Day” was actually credited to The Barbusters, with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts in parentheses. 

The next time Joan & Co. would chart the Hot 100 again on their own accord was in 1988, when Joan’s second original song to reach the Top 40, “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” reached No. 8.

Oft-credited as the Queen of Rock ’N’ Roll and the Godmother of Punk, Joan and The Blackhearts were rightfully inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2015.  Their last album was in 2013 (UNVARNISHED), and Joan and the band continue to tour. 

Last year, on a tour I had hoped to see but couldn’t, they performed with Heart and Cheap Trick, and starting June 14, 2017, they head out on a Summer tour with 70s and 80s Rock legends, Boston.  Don’t know if it’ll be this year, but one day I hope I get to see Joan Jett & The Blackhearts perform.  It’s long overdue.

boston-tour-jj-website-announce-768x354

I suppose it’s a bit weird to highlight a song called “Fake Friends” on a day of heartbreak (sadly again) in London, and much love and unity at the impressive One Love Manchester concert in Manchester, England, but Joan Jett has never been one to back down or not tell it like it is, and neither should I, and neither should you. 

one love manchester

And, if you should ever encounter one of these “fake friends,” whether on social media or in person, and feel dejected about the whole thing after you’ve told them to eff off, just remember what Joan says:

“Ya got nothin to lose / Ya don’t lose when you lose fake friends…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTDJWZ4WiI0

fake friends 1

song of the day – “Sometimes A Fantasy” | BILLY JOEL | 1980.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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).american-top-40-casey-kasem

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!”

A few posts back, I complained about how certain (or all?) commercial radio programmers, over the course of time, have “determined” what songs are deemed important enough to keep going into radio immortality and how other songs are just left behind, to be merely forgotten. 

Billy Joel’s “Sometimes A Fantasy” is one of those mostly-forgotten gems that got passed over in Radio Immortality Land for overrated songs like “Big Shot” (sorry, Billy, just not a fan of that one).  “Sometimes A Fantasy” was the fourth of four singles released from his No. 1 album, GLASS HOUSES. 

glass houses

With Punk already established and New Wave on the rise, for GLASS HOUSES, Billy Joel took on a more edgier Rock approach than his other albums, and it worked.  The first single, “You May Be Right,” reached No. 7, the second single, “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me” was Billy’s first No. 1 single in America, and the laid back “Don’t Ask Me Why” (another mostly-forgotten gem) reached the Top 20. 

I loved “Sometimes A Fantasy” from the first listen.  Sure, the other singles from the album were great, and I owned each one of them, but “Sometimes A Fantasy” struck a chord the other ones didn’t for whatever reason.  And, the single version had something the album version didn’t – a longer version. 

billy-joel-sometimes-a-fantasy-columbia

It was rare for single versions to be extended over their album counterparts, usually it was the other way around.  But, with “Sometimes A Fantasy,” as the album version faded out after 3 minutes and 40 seconds, the 45 version continued on for another 40 seconds with a kick-ass guitar and instrumental solo, until Billy Joel laughs at the end and wails, “I’ve got blisters on my blisters!” (paying homage to Ringo Starr’s outburst of “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” at the end of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter”).  I loved it! (and still do…)  (And, to date, for whatever reason, outside of posts on YouTube, this version continues to NOT be available in any other form.)

billy-joel-sometimes-a-fantasy-1980-5

“Sometimes A Fantasy” – a song about a lonely, horny man who calls his significant other on the phone and tries to get her to have phone sex with him – debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-October 1980, just as “Don’t Ask Me Why” was finishing up its run in the Top 40.  It only took four short weeks for “Sometimes A Fantasy” to reach No. 40, and it looked like it was going to be another big hit for the New York City native.

But, somehow, radio programmers across the country collaborated on this one, and decided that “Sometimes A Fantasy” wasn’t the hit they thought it was, and the song spent a quick two weeks at No. 36 on the Hot 100 in mid-November 1980.  It was off the Hot 100 after just nine surprising weeks.  I was so disappointed because it’s such a great song, one of my all-time favorite Billy Joel songs.

If my memory serves correctly, I believe GLASS HOUSES was the third non-soundtrack album (following Fleetwood Mac’s RUMOURS and Michael Jackson’s OFF THE WALL) to generate four Top 40 singles from one album.  It’s been more commonplace and then some since then.  In fact, three albums released in the 80s had seven singles released –  Michael Jackson’s THRILLER, Bruce Springsteen’s BORN IN THE U.S.A., and Janet Jackson’s RHYTHM NATION 1814 – and even more impressive, all seven hits from each of those historic albums reached the Top 10.  And RHYTHM NATION 1814 remains the only album in history to have seven commercially-released singles reach the Top 5.

SCRUBS, my third-favorite show of all-time, was thankfully notorious for keeping the 80s alive with mentions and song selections (and incorporating the amazing Colin Hay into many episodes), and in a Season 6 clip episode, “Sometimes A Fantasy” was used.  And, it was nice that I wasn’t the only one who remembered this awesome song.

scrubs wars

Well, “Sometimes A Fantasy” didn’t reach the Top 5, or even the Top 35, though I wish it had.  I could fantasize that it charted higher than it did, but it’s not the real thing.  Still, though, I’ve always contended that “Sometimes A Fantasy” is one of the coolest things Billy Joel ever did, even if radio programmers of the day didn’t think so…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhJg1finpyU

billy joel 1980

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Whisper To A Scream (Birds Fly)” | ICICLE WORKS | 1984.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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).american-top-40-casey-kasem

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!”

Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, a list that includes Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Timbuk 3, The Church, Bronski Beat, Nik Kershaw, The Buggles, The Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers.  Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.

More than 100 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s reached the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, and in this month-long tribute to Casey Kasem, I’ll feature five of them.  Out of the 100-plus (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the Top 40, eight of them peaked at No. 37.  One of them was The Icicle Works, a three-man New Wave / Alt-Rock band based out of Liverpool, England named after a 1960 short story called “The Day The Icicle Works Closed” by the late sci-fi author from New York City, Frederik Pohl.

ascending

The Icicle Works, formed in 1980 and then-comprised of singer / songwriter / guitarist / keyboardist / lead vocalist Ian MacNabb, bassist / backing vocalist Chris Layhe, and drummer Chris Sharrock.  In 1981, they released an independently-released EP called ASCENDING, and a single from that EP, “Nirvana,” reached the Top 15 on the U.K. Indie charts.

A year later, the band was picked up by one of my favorite labels, Beggars Banquet, and in June 1983, on a subsidiary label of Beggars (Situation Two), the single, “Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)” was released.  It cracked the U.K. singles chart and peaked at No. 90, but reached No. 2 on the U.K. Indie chart.  The Icicle Works fared much better with their next single, “Love Is A Wonderful Colour,” which reached No. 15 on the U.K. singles chart. 

birds fly UK original

The lovely cover art for the original 1983 U.K. single release of “Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream).”

With the success of “Love Is A Wonderful Colour,” The Icicle Works released their eponymous debut album in late March 1984.  This album contained ten songs, including “Nirvana,” “Love Is A Wonderful Colour” and “Birds Fly,” which was re-issued with a new cover, and as a double-A side with the song, “In The Cauldron Of Love,” and the reissue climbed higher on the U.K. singles chart than the original, peaking at No. 53. 

icicle works UK LP

The cover art for the U.K. version of the eponymous debut album by THE Icicle Works.

Over here in the U.S., the band was picked up by Arista Records, but strangely enough, the cover art and album track listing for the U.K., U.S. and Canadian versions were all different. 

icicle works US

The cover art for the U.S. version of the eponymous debut album by (just) ICICLE WORKS.

As for “Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream),” Arista refused to release the single unless in the U.S. and Canada until the title was flipped to “Whisper To A Scream (Birds Fly),” and the brief spoken-word part in the intro (by a woman only known as “Mariella” on the original U.K. single) was removed in the U.S., but kept on the Canadian version (confused yet?).  So, “Birds Fly” was now “Whisper To A Scream” and slightly remixed.  Oh, and one more thing – in the U.S., The Icicle Works were now known as just Icicle Works.  Silly record labels.

But, silly or not, the changes paid off somewhat here in the U.S. and Canada.  A month after the album was released, “Whisper To A Scream” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 85, right behind debuting singles by fellow Brits Howard Jones and Shakin’ Stevens, and ahead of London New Wavers, Wang Chung.  Yepper, the Second British Invasion was well under way on the Hot 100.

birds fly UK reissue

The cover art for the U.K. reissue of “Birds Fly.”  Arista Records skimped out on any cover art for the U.S. version of “Whisper To A Scream.”  Crusty jugglers.

I was in the last months of my Junior year in high school here in Central Maine when I first heart “Whisper To A Scream,” and fell in love with it right away.  I was instantly drawn to the melody, the quick and powerful drums of Chris Sharrock, and the song’s strong lyrics:

“We are, we are, we are but your children / Finding our way around indecision / We are, we are, we are ever helpless / Take us forever, a whisper to a scream…”

By the end of May 1984, “Whisper To A Scream” reached the Top 40 at No. 40.  A couple of weeks later, it spent the first of its two weeks at its peak position of No. 37.  It stayed on the Hot 100 for 12 weeks, and Icicle Works wouldn’t grace the chart again.  I am not sure if it’s because the Canadian version was the same as the U.K. original (with the female spoken-word part in the intro), but it fared better there, reaching No. 21.

ian macnabb on AB

Ian MacNabb being interviewed by Dick Clark on AMERICAN BANDSTAND.

Though “Whisper To A Scream” was the only success The Icicle Works had here in America, they continued to have moderate success in the U.K., charting 12 songs on the U.K. singles chart between 1984 and 1990. 

After some lineup changes in 1988 and a 15-year break between 1991 and 2006, The Icicle Works are still around in 2017, with founding member Ian MacNabb leading a four-man version of the band today (when he’s not working on any solo projects), playing a handful of U.K. shows every year or so. 

understanding jane

Though I mostly lost track of The Icicle Works after 1984 (save for their 1986 single, “Understanding Jane,” and their 1988 album, BLIND), I’ll always treasure their one and only hit here in America, in whatever version I can take it…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVQCpI4GbKQ

icicle works