song of the day – “Love Shack” | THE B-52’s | 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 (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!”

Casey Kasem used to also say, “As the numbers get smaller, the hits get bigger.”  And so does the number of songs that reached these “smaller” positions.  Between 1979 and 1989, more than 110 songs peaked at No. 3, and many artists stayed there more than once, including Bobby Brown, El DeBarge (solo and with DeBarge), Duran Duran, Genesis, The Jets, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis & The News, Richard Marx, Olivia Newton-John, The Pointer Sisters, The Police (Sting also had a No. 3 solo hit), Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand, Styx, Wham! and Donna Summer.  Chicago reached the No. 3 positions four times between 1979 and 1989.

hungry like the wolf

1988 was a popular year for No. 3 hits, when 17 songs reached that position, including songs by Taylor Dayne, Samantha Fox, Debbie Gibson, the “comeback” hit for Hall & Oates (“Everything Your Heart Desires”), Breathe, Anita Baker, Information Society, INXS, U2 and (real) one-hit wonder Patrick Swayze (from DIRTY DANCING). 

new sensation

No. 3 hits also included the first solo by David Lee Roth (his cover of The Beach Boys’ “California Girls”), as well as the first Van Halen hit without him, “Why Can’t This Be Love.”  There were also big No. 3 hits for Simple Minds, Belinda Carlisle, The Cars, Neneh Cherry, Charlie Daniels Band, Chris de Burgh, Earth, Wind & Fire, Corey Hart, Don Henley, Chaka Khan, Love & Rockets, Men At Work, Men Without Hats, Nu Shooz, Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The S.O.S. Band, The Stray Cats, Tears For Fears, Thompson Twins, Madonna and the last Top 40 hit for the late, great Marvin Gaye (“Sexual Healing”).

sexual healing

Love was a constant theme among the No. 3 hits, and was featured in the title of 15 songs, and implied in many others.  One of the 15 hits with the “Love” connection (sorry, couldn’t be helped) was one of two No. 3 hits in a row for The B-52’s – “Love Shack.”

One of the 80s’ biggest success stories – some would say one of the biggest comebacks – belonged to Athens, GA’s New Wave / Alt-Rock / Alt-Dance legends, The B-52’s.  By 1989, The B-52’s had already released four albums and two EPs, and had reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 three times – “Rock Lobster” (No. 56, 1980), “Private Idaho” (No. 74, 1980) and “Legal Tender” (No. 81, 1983). 

rock lobster

The B-52’s started recorded their fourth album – BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES – in July 1985.  At that time, the band was comprised of vocalist Fred Schneider, vocalist and keyboardist Kate Pierson, vocalist and percussionist Cindy Wilson, lead guitarist Ricky Wilson (Cindy’s brother), and drummer / rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Keith Strickland.  This had been the lineup since the band’s formation in 1976.

b-52's with ricky

During the recording of BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES, it was discovered that Ricky Wilson was suffering from AIDS.  None of the rest of The B-52’s (except for Keith Strickland) had known about it.  In an interview, Kate Pierson had said that Ricky Wilson kept his illness a secret from the rest of the band because he “did not want anyone to worry about him or fuss about him.” 

On October 12, 1985, while still in the recording process of BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES, Ricky Wilson died of AIDS at the heartbreakingly young age of 32 years old.

Ricky Wilson, Guitarist for the B-52s

After Ricky’s death, drummer Keith Strickland learned how to play guitar in Ricky’s own style and switched from drummer to lead guitarist.  The band hired session musicians to help out as well, including the album’s producer, Tony Mansfield (who had also worked with Naked Eyes, Captain Sensible, a-ha and After The Fire).

bouncing

Devastated beyond belief at the loss of Ricky Wilson, The B-52’s released BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES on September 8, 1986, with no fanfare and no tour, though they did make a music video for my favorite song on the album, “Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland.”

girl from ipanema

Cindy Wilson went into a deep depression following her brother’s death, Keith Strickland spent some time at Woodstock, NY, while Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson remained in New York City.  They all felt at that moment The B-52’s couldn’t continue without Ricky Wilson.

But, in time, Keith Strickland began composing songs again, and after playing some of the new music he had worked on to the rest of the band, they agreed to try and start writing together again.  The result was COSMIC THING, the biggest album the band would ever have.

cosmic thing

COSMIC THING’s production was smartly split up between Don Was (of Was (Not Was) fame) and Nile Rodgers.  It worked and then some, and the album’s first single, “Channel Z,” was not well-received anywhere except College and Modern Rock radio, who embraced it right away.  “Channel Z” would spend three weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart in August 1989.

channel z

“Channel Z” was also the B-side of the album’s second single, “Love Shack,” which was released a week in advance of COSMIC THING in late June 1989.  It took a month and a half to reach BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 chart and become the band’s fourth single to reach the chart. 

“Love Shack” debuted on the Hot 100 in early September 1989 at No. 84.  Within three weeks, “Love Shack” had already surpassed the peak of every B-52’s single which had reached the chart.  By the end of September 1989, it was the first Top 40 hit the band had in its U.S. homeland.

love shack

In early November 1989, The B-52’s landed their first Top 10 hit, with “Love Shack.”  That was also the week I saw them perform for the first time, when they came to the University of Maine at Orono and almost literally brought the roof of the venue down with their show.  They were amazing.  I would see them again on the COSMIC THING tour in 1990 at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

“Love Shack” would go on to spend a couple of weeks at No. 3 in November 1989, and just before Xmas 1989, it was certified Gold.  Follow-up single “Roam” debuted on the last Hot 100 of 1989, when “Love Shack” was still in the Top 30.  And, in late January 1990, “Roam” debuted within the Top 40 the last week “Love Shack” spent in the Top 40.  (“Roam” would also reach No. 3 and was certified Gold as well.)

roam

A total of 27 weeks was spent on the Hot 100 for “Love Shack,” one week more than half a year.  It was that lengthy time on the chart which saw it finish on the year-end BILLBOARD charts two years in a row.  Pretty impressive.  It also reached (with “Channel Z”) No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, spent four weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart, and received two MTV Video Music Awards, for Best Group Video and Best Art Direction.

b's 1989NERDY FUN FACT: “Love Shack” was produced by Don Was, and the inspiration for the song was this cabin around Athens, GA, which had a tin roof, and where the band conceived their first hit, “Rock Lobster.”  Kate Pierson even lived in the cabin back in the 70s (it burned down in 2004).  Prolly the most famous line in the song, where Cindy Wilson exclaims, “Tin roof…rusted,” was actually an outtake that was added to the song later on.

Around the globe, lots of love was felt for “Love Shack,” and it spent eight weeks at No. 1 in Australia, four weeks at No. 1 in New Zealand, a week at No. 1 in Ireland, plus it reached No. 2 in the U.K., and the Top 20 in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In a 2002 interview with ROLLING STONE (which named “Love Shack” as the Best Single of 1989), Fred Schneider spoke of the album’s success: “We thought it would be good, but we didn’t know how good.  We don’t really set out saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be commercial,’ or ‘This is going to be this or that.’  We just wanted good songs, and we thought the songs were really good.  We were pretty shocked, because we didn’t expect it to go that big.  The success of it brings problems because it’s really hard to do tours.  I’m not one to want to go tour at all, but to do eighteen months is like torture.  You just get offers that are really good and you’re going to New Zealand and Australia and all over Europe, and it’s pretty exciting.  It all went way beyond what you’d think.”

flintstones

After COSMIC THING, The B-52’s continued to record and chart for a few more years, including a fun cover of the TV theme song, “(Meet) The Flintstones” (from the 1994 FLINTSTONES movie starring John Goodman).  It snuck onto the Top 40 for one week in early June 1994.

Apart from recording (as The BC-52’s) for Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty (and a couple of popular compilations), the band took a lengthy hiatus, and in March 2008, released FUNPLEX, their first album in nearly 16 years.  It was worth the wait. 

funplex

In October 2011, they released a CD and a DVD of a live concert from earlier that year, WITH THE WILD CROWD! LIVE IN ATHENS, GA.  To borrow from a line out of FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, “It is so choice.  If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”  Seriously, it’s that good.  One of the best live performances I’ve ever seen on the small screen, from one of the bands with two of the best live performances I’ve seen in person.

with the wild crowd

Though the band hasn’t released a solo album since 2008’s FUNPLEX, The B-52’s continue to tour and perform 50-60 shows a year (minus Keith Strickland, who is still with the band, but who stopped performing live with them in 2012).  Sadly, I missed them this Summer, when they came to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire (where I saw Billy Idol in 2014), and when they performed with the Boston Pops.  That must have been incredible!  Prolly the only Pops show where you can’t control people from dancing on their seats, in the aisles and everywhere!

b's n pops

I gotta be honest, after years of playing it at wedding receptions, “Love Shack” is not my favorite B-52’s song.  But, if you were in a jam and tried to get people out onto the dance floor, that was THE go-to song, and people loved it, and loved dancing to it.  Though it’s not my favorite from the band, I do love the song to death, and I’m so glad it finally got The B-52’s the recognition they deserved after so many years of struggling despite putting out great music, and with the terrible loss they suffered when they lost Ricky Wilson. 

Both COSMIC THING and “Love Shack” are a testament to Ricky’s memory, and I’m so proud to call The B-52’s one of my all-time favorite bands, even if it took me awhile to get there.  They are a heluva lot of fun to listen to and dance to, play on the radio and see perform live, which I hope to do again sometime soon…

“Hop in my Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale and it’s about to set sail / I got me a car, like, it seats about 20 / So come on and bring your jukebox money…  The Love Shack is a little old place where we can get together / Love Shack, ba-by….”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SOryJvTAGs

b's 1989 v2

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song of the day – “Straight Ahead” | NICK STRAKER BAND | 1982.

It’s an exciting day for me (1.11.2017), as today marks the one-year anniversary when I started my first-ever blog, FOREVER YOUNG: MY LIFE STUCK IN THE 80s!  I had my first post started but not posted when I learned of David Bowie’s death on this date in 2016, and he indirectly inspired me to start the blog that day.  Also, many special thanks go out to one of my BESTEST friends, Hope, for helping me get the darn thing started, and for her continued ideas in expanding the blog, which is on the list for this year.

For those who have been reading all along or check out the blog from time to time and/or share with other folks, I thank you!  If you’re reading this and are new to my blog, welcome!  FOREVER YOUNG: MY LIFE STUCK IN THE 80s is part autobiography, part singles chart nerdiness and all about my love for the 80s, which keeps me FOREVER YOUNG.

forever young blog logo

In the past year, I’ve written 244 posts, mostly highlighting a “song of the day” between 1979 and 1989, a “(real) one-hit wonder of the week” (the 80s had nearly 500 of them, so it’ll be years before I go through them all), tributes and other posts as well.  It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to sharing personal stories and great 80s gems for many years to come.

Though I consider myself well-versed in many different genres of music spanning several decades, anyone who knows me knows that 1980s music is my passion, and while I’m quite knowledgeable when it comes to 80s music, it’s amazing that 27 years after the 80s ended, I’m still learning about “new” (to me) 80s music. 

A few nights ago (1.8.2017), during my final (?) All-Request Fest on my little radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I got a request for a band I had never heard of – the Nick Straker Band – and a song I had never heard of – “Straight Ahead.”  Then again, I do have the smartest listeners on the planet.

straight-ahead

The Nick Straker Band was a six-man Synthpop / New Wave / Jazz-Funk Fusion band out of London, several members of which were also in another London Synthpop group, New Musik, which which had three Top 40 U.K. singles in 1980.  Tony Mansfield (who has gone on to work with artists like The B-52’s, a-ha, The Damned, Captain Sensible and Naked Eyes) was the primary songwriter, producer, lead vocalist and frontman of New Musik and was one of the members of the Nick Straker Band. 

Depending on who you speak to about the Nick Straker Band, some might say the band was a side project of New Musik.  I’d say no.  New Musik broke up in 1982, and between 1980 and 1984, the Nick Straker Band released 11 singles.  1980’s “A Walk In The Park” reached No. 20 on the U.K. singles chart, and in 1981, double A-sided single “A Little Bit Of Jazz” and “The Last Goodbye” spent a week at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart in September 1981, and reached No. 35 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.

a-little-bit-of-jazz

1982’s “Straight Ahead,” with a kick-ass rhythm guitar opening and those early 80s Synthpop drums and keyboards, was a treat to listen to the first time, and the second…  I was pleasantly surprised, especially since I had never heard of the Nick Straker Band or this song, 35 years after its release.  “Straight Ahead” is a Synthpop gem, complimented by a Post-Disco beat and a great sax solo.

As I look straight ahead to the future, I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’m introduced to an 80s song many years after the end of the decade, and honestly, I welcome that.  Though I missed songs like “Straight Ahead” the first time around, I’m grateful to have finally found out about them…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZdaB8Yvubw

nick-straker-band

song of the day – “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” | a-ha | 1986.

stuck in the 80s 20 800x1000 YELLOWOver the course of the 20 years I’ve been on the air with my little 80s radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG-FM community radio in Portland, Maine), I’ve advocated for those many recording acts who had the one big hit in America and continue to be labeled as “one-hit wonders,” though they had more than one chart hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100. 

There were nearly 500 artists during the Fall of 1979 through the end of 1989 who really did hit the Hot 100 only the one time.  I call them “(real) one-hit wonders of the 80s,” and I like to try and feature one every week on the blog. 

There are several recording artists remembered for the “one BIG hit” here in the U.S. who actually had more than one Top 40 hit on the Hot 100 and are STILL considered one-hit wonders (thanks to folks like VH1), including Eddy Grant, The Outfield, John Waite, Information Society (who had 2 Top 10 hits), General Public, Quarterflash, ’til Tuesday, Neneh Cherry (another artist with 2 Top 10 hits) and the Oslo, Norway band, a-ha. 

A_Ha CoverArt

Vocalist Morten Harket, keyboardist Magne Furuholmen and guitarist Pål Waaktaar-Savoy formed a-ha in 1982, and on their first album, 1985’s HUNTING HIGH AND LOW, and their second attempt at making the song “Take On Me” into a hit, their lives as they knew it would never be the same again.  “Take On Me” was a massive hit in Norway and beyond, reaching No. 1 in 10 countries worldwide (including the U.S.), and the Top 10 in another 8 countries, and parent album, HUNTING HIGH AND LOW, was a global hit as well.

I adore “Take On Me” and its sensational and creative video, and have for many years, but it was the follow-up single, “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.,” that made a-ha a part of my life for all-time.

“The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” was the third single overall released from HUNTING HIGH AND LOW, but the second single from the album released worldwide.  It made its way onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 the end of November 1985 and debuted in the Top 40 in January 1986.  It climbed steadily until pausing at No. 20 for a week in late February 1986, and spent 17 weeks on the chart.  The trio would make one more appearance on the Hot 100, with 1986’s “Cry Wolf,” which reached No. 50.

the sun always shines on tv

Though I was disappointed in the Stateside chart performance of “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.,” I took comfort in the fact it was well-received around the world, reaching the Top 10 in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Holland, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the BILLBOARD Dance chart.  In Ireland and the U.K., where “Take On Me” had stopped at No. 2, “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” reached No. 1 in both of those countries, which was indeed validating, not only for the band, but also for my love of the song.

The video for “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” starts as a epilogue to the “Take On Me” video, where an animated Morten Harket realizes he can’t stay in the world of his young love interest, and heads back to the comic book world where he came from.  The video then turns into an impressive performance piece, set in a former English Gothic church (still owned by the Church of England), loaded with very interesting European mannequins (which are WAY different than your run-of-the-mill American mannequins).tsas_video

The editing of this video is magnificent.  Just setting up the hundreds of mannequins in the church as an orchestra, chorus, and patrons must have taken many hours if not days.  Also validating in my love for this song and its video is that, in a year where “Take On Me” won 6 MTV Video Music Awards, the video for “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” deservedly won the band 2 more: Best Editing and Best Cinematography.  It remains as one of my all-time favorite videos.

a-ha is still around today, and in their native Norway, every studio album they released between 1985 and 2005 reached No. 1 on the Norway album chart.  And, their most recent albums, 2009’s FOOT OF THE MOUNTAIN, and 2015’s CAST IN STEEL, reached No. 2. 

I know everyone has their own opinions on what or what not constitutes an artist being a one-hit wonder.  American radio stations, DJs and venues like VH1 have a stranglehold on which songs they think people should remember over others.  Luckily, WMPG is not one of those stations, and I sure as hell am not one of those DJs.  Yes, I realize there is a whole other world going on that has much more important issues than whether or not someone was a one-hit wonder.  But, in the world in which I live and breathe every day of my life – the 80s music world – a-ha is NOT a one-hit wonder.  And “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” is my proof…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3ir9HC9vYg

a-ha

song of the day – “I Feel For You” | CHAKA KHAN | 1984 / 1985.

It’s been nearly a day and a half since learning of the heart-breaking death of Prince (4.21.2016).  I am still numb.  It hits me with little jolts to the body, which would be in line with the electrifying nature of his work, but it hasn’t fully hit me yet, though I know it will.  A proper tribute will appear in my blog over the weekend, but for tonight, I wanted to share this Prince-composed masterpiece as my “song of the day.”

princePrince recorded “I Feel For You” on his self-titled second album, which featured his first Top 40 hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, the No. 11 hit, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (also his first of 8 No. 1 songs on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart).

Hard to imagine now, but “I Feel For You” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover” were actually written as demos for R&B singer Patrice Rushen (you’ll remember her from her big Top 40 hit in 1982, “Forget Me Nots”). 

Though “I Feel For You” was never released as a Prince single, it did get covered a couple of times in the first half of the 80s – first, by The Pointer Sisters in 1982, on their album, SO EXCITED!, and by (real) 80s one-hit wonder Rebbie Jackson (of the semi-famous Jackson clan), on her 1984 album, CENTIPEDE (the title track reached No. 24 on the Hot 100).

“I Feel For You” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early September 1984, nearly a month before the I FEEL FOR YOU parent album was released.  It had all the makings of a hit single – rapping by Grandmaster Melle Mel (which actually originated in his 1984 song, “Step Off”), harmonica by Stevie Wonder (even sampling his first hit, 1963’s “Fingertips”), and Chicago native Chaka Khan belting out vocals of a song written by Prince. 

chaka khan i feel for you

After a couple of months on the chart, “I Feel For You” reached the Top 10, and peaked at No. 3 for 3 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas 1984 and spent half a year on the Hot 100, extending its stay into early March 1985.  It was also a No. 1 hit on BILLBOARD’s R&B and Dance charts for 3 weeks each.

People really felt (or fell) for “I Feel For You” around the globe, as it was a Top 10 hit in Belgium, Canada, Germany and New Zealand; and, in the U.K. and Ireland, it went all the way to No. 1.

Despite its peak at No. 3 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, its chart longevity made it easy for BILLBOARD magazine to rank “I Feel For You” at No. 5 for all of 1985, beating out at least 21 other American No. 1 songs that year, including hits by Madonna, Dire Straits, a-ha, Simple Minds and “We Are The World.”  It was Chaka Khan’s biggest solo hit (and perhaps biggest overall), selling over a million copies, and won Prince (as the songwriter) a deserved Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1985.

Like yours truly, this gem of a cover will be on the minds of many people this week and then some, along with the unbelievable bastion of work Prince did for himself and for countless other recording artists over a span of nearly 40 years.  I think I also chose this song today because, for those Prince fans kind enough to be reading these words, believe me, I do feel for you…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX9E44mClKs

chaka khan