song of the day – “You Can Call Me Al” | PAUL SIMON | 1986 / 1987.

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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!”

Throughout the years, whether it’s because of an inclusion in a movie or a commercial or a TV show, or a radio station rediscovered it and started playing it again, songs sometimes have more one chart life.  The best example of this is Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” which reached No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 twice.  In its initial run, the dance craze favorite spent one week on top in September 1960, and again in January 1962 for two weeks.  No other song has done that here in America.  And, because of its two chart runs that ended at No. 1, “The Twist” is ranked at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 for all time.

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The 1989 cassette single (or “cassingles” – remember those?!) for “In Your Eyes.”

I believe all decades have had songs re-enter the chart with new chart runs, but I think no other decade has as many as the 80s did.  There were “second-chance singles” (as I like to call them) that went to No. 1 on the Hot 100, like “At This Moment” by Billy Vera & The Beaters and “When I’m With You” by Sheriff, “second-chance singles” that were “(real) one-hit wonders,” like Sheriff (again), Benny Mardones (“Into The Night”) and Moving Pictures (“What About Me”),  and songs that benefited from appearing in movies, like Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (…SAY ANYTHING) and Billy Idol’s “Hot In The City” (BIG).

Then you have songs that were hits in other decades and, also due to their inclusions in films, were reissued and hit the chart again, like The Beatles’ “Twist And Shout” (featured in both FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF and BACK TO SCHOOL), Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” (from the incredible film of the same name), and The Contours’ “Do You Love Me” (from DIRTY DANCING).

Prince’s “1999” reached the Hot 100 four time in three decades, and reached the Top 40 three of those times.  In its original 1982 chart run (as the debut single from the album of the same name), it stopped at No. 44.  After “Little Red Corvette” reached No. 6, “1999” was re-released and reached No. 12 in 1983.  When the calendar changed from 1998 to 1999 (even though the song wasn’t about the year 1999), it re-entered the Top 40 for one week at No. 40.  And, as BILLBOARD has been doing for several years now, a number of Prince songs re-entered the Hot 100 following his sad passing in April 2016.  In its fourth Hot 100 appearance, “1999” reached No. 27.

1999

These “second-chance singles” don’t always chart higher than their original chart runs (like the Moving Pictures, Peter Gabriel and Billy Idol singles mentioned above), but lots of times they do.  UB40’s “Red Red Wine” originally peaked at No. 34 in March 1984, but in a re-release (after being performed at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Concert in 1988), the album version of their Neil Diamond cover spent a week at No. 1 in October 1988.  And, the original version of The Pointer Sisters’ classic, “I’m So Excited,” stalled at No. 30 in late 1982, but after being remixed for their 1984 album, BREAK OUT, the song was reissued and did break out, reaching No. 9 on the Hot 100 about two years later.

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And, sometimes, “second-chance singles” get another shot at the Hot 100 for multiple reasons.  In the case of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” its success can be attributed to growing praise and sales for its brilliant parent album, GRACELAND (and its big Album Of The Year Grammy Award), and a smart change in music videos.

“You Can Call Me Al” (a song about someone going through a midlife crisis), the first single released from GRACELAND, debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 83 in early August 1986, about a month before the album was released.  The original video for “You Can Call Me Al” was a performance Paul Simon gave (in the perspective of a video monitor) during a monologue when he hosted SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. 

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Well, Paul Simon wasn’t happy with the video, which didn’t seem to attract many fans to buy the record, and GRACELAND had just been released (and wasn’t the brilliant classic most people associate with it now).  “You Can Call Me Al” spent a couple of weeks at No. 44 in September and October, and dropped off the chart in November 1986 after 14 weeks.

A new video was commissioned, and Paul Simon stayed with his friend and SNL creator, Lorne Michaels, to put together another video.  This one (one of my all-time favorite music videos) pairs Paul with another friend (and SNL alum), Chevy Chase, who lip-syncs Paul Simon’s vocals, leaving Paul to twiddle his thumbs, although Paul ends up lip-syncing his backing vocals throughout, and in the last 30 seconds of the video, the focus switches from Chevy to Paul (although Chevy almost takes Paul’s head off with a trumpet).  It’s an incredibly funny and smartly done video, and I think it resonated with fans, MTV watchers, and radio stations alike. 

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Paul Simon and his friend, Chevy Chase, from the hilarious video for “You Can Call Me Al.”

Between a hilarious new music video and a big Grammy win for GRACELAND in late February 1987, “You Can Call Me Al” re-entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late March 1987 at No. 92.  About a month later, it surpassed its original No. 44 peak, and reached the Top 40.  About a month after that, it spent a couple of weeks at its (new) peak position of No. 23, departing the chart in early July 1987, with a total of 27 weeks spent on the Hot 100 (strangely enough, in its highe-charting second run, it spent one less week than the first chart run).  To date, it’s Paul Simon’s last Top 40 hit here in America.

you can call me al

Around the globe, “You Can Call Me Al” said, “You can call me a big hit in” Australia, Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa (where it reached No. 2), plus the U.K. (No. 4), the Netherlands (No. 5), Finland (No. 9), France (No. 16) and Canada (No. 19). hyde park

Paul Simon is 75 now, and still very much active in the music scene.  In 2016, he released his 13th studio album, STRANGER TO STRANGER, which reached No. 3 on BILLBOARD’s Album chart, his highest-charting album since GRACELAND went to No. 3 three decades ago.  And, just this month, he released his fourth live solo album, PAUL SIMON – THE CONCERT IN HYDE PARK.

I don’t know what it is, but I love the idea of songs getting a second chance – for whatever reason – to do better on the chart than they did before.  And, though sometimes it doesn’t work out, the times it does happen can be pretty amazing.  And other times you just need a gifted comedic actor and friend to play off against, who’s a full foot taller than you to create a really fucking hilarious music video to help out a really cool song about trying to cope with middle age.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uq-gYOrU8bA

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(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “State Of The Nation” | INDUSTRY | 1983.

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.

As we gear up for what should be a historic Presidential election here in America on Tuesday, November 8th, on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine) two days before the election, I’ll be presenting a show about the only politics I can get behind – THE POLITICS OF DANCING: PRE-ELECTION DANCE FAVORITES. 

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One of the songs I’ll be featuring is “State Of The Nation,” a 1983 New Wave gem courtesy of a band originally named Industrial Complex and formed in New York City in 1978 – Industry.

Industry released a couple of EPs in 1980 and 1981, but in 1981, there were some major lineup changes for the band, which, after the changes consisted of singer / keyboardist Jon Carin, guitarist Brian Unger, drummer Mercury Caronia (the only remaining original member of Industry) and bassist Rudy Perrone.  1981 was also the year that Industry was signed by Capitol Records.

In 1983, the band once referred to as “The American Spandau Ballet” released a self-titled, five-song “mini-LP” (what most folks would call an EP; U2’s UNDER A BLOOD RED SKY, released in 1983 as well, was also initially listed as a “mini-LP”).  The five songs featured on the INDUSTRY EP would all be featured on the band’s only full-length album, 1984’s STRANGER TO STRANGER, but not before “State Of The Nation” became a surprise hit.

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Released during the heart of the Cold War in the 1980s, “State Of The Nation” is an anti-war song that made a slight dent into the BILLBOARD Hot 100, debuting at No. 92 in mid-November 1983, spent a couple of weeks at its peak position of No. 81 before Christmas, and a total of eight weeks on the chart.  It would be the only time Industry would reach the Hot 100.

NERDY FUN FACT:  In the original video for “State Of The Nation,” set on an aircraft carrier / naval ship, the band is surrounded by actual dancing members of the United States Navy (along with some actors / dancers meant to look like they were members of the U.S. Navy).

Interestingly enough, “State Of The Nation” found a huge audience in other parts of the world, including the Philippines, Italy and a No. 10 peak on the singles chart in Sweden.  In fact, because of their success in Europe in 1983 and 1984, Industry opened for acts like INXS, Billy Idol and Talk Talk.

But, the band Industry was not meant to be, and sometime in 1984, they broke up.  Lead singer Jon Carin became a successful session musician, including being a permanent member of Pink Floyd’s live band and co-wrote the band’s 1987 hit, “Learning To Fly.”

In October 2014, 30 years after the demise of Industry, the original lineup for the band – vocalist / guitarist Andrew Geyer, bassist Sean Kelly and drummer Mercury Caronia – formed the next installment of the band, called MASS (before changing their name back to Industry).  They recorded hours of new material, but to date, nothing has been released, and that incarnation of Industry split up in July 2016.

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Like it or not, one of these folks will be leading the United States starting January 20, 2017…

I don’t really know what the state of the nation will be like here in the U.S. after the Presidential election on Tuesday, November 8th, but at the very least (for a few minutes anyway), this is a “State Of The Nation” I (and hopefully you) will be happy with…

(“There’s no place like home / There’s no place like home / There’s no place I don’t want to be anywhere else…”)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noS1viHX6zA

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song of the day – “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” | THE POWER STATION | 1985.

What do you do when one of your favorite bands splits up and goes their separate ways?  Well, in the case of Talking Heads, you keep listening to the music you fell in love with, enjoy the solo projects they all have, and keep wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that they’ll get back together for a reunion tour (or just watch STOP MAKING SENSE again). 

In the case of The Police, you keep listening to the music you fell in love with, enjoy the solo projects they all have, and see them on their 2007 reunion tour (like I did), because it’ll prolly never happen again.

And, in the case of Duran Duran in 1985 – one of the first bands that meant a lot to me during the early 80s – you keep hoping they’ll get back together in some form and keep listening to the music you fell in love with.  Duran Duran actually made it easy.  After their 1983 album, SEVEN AND THE RAGGED TIGER, the band went on a “planned” hiatus, splitting into two side projects, but not without giving us the live ARENA album and their second No. 1 song, “A View To A Kill,” from the James Bond film of the same name. 

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Arcadia: Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor.

Frontman and lead singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor went on to form Arcadia, which was reminiscent of their work with Duran Duran.  Bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor went a different route with their band, what would become the “supergroup” The Power Station.

The Power Station had an edgier Rock / Funk sound that John and Andy Taylor weren’t able to pull off with Duran Duran.  In 1984, Bebe Buell, singer and former model, part-time Portlander and the biological mother to actress Liv Tyler, was dating John Taylor, and she wanted to do a cover of T. Rex’s 1972 classic, “Get It On (Bang A Gong).”  John proceeded to get some of his famous music friends together to help out, and instead, it turned into something more.

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Bebe Buell and John Taylor.

John and Andy reached out to their idols from the 70s Dance/Soul band, Chic.  The amazing Tony Thompson was on board as the drummer, and Bernard Edwards would be the producer.  Now, they needed a singer.  John and Andy approached folks like Billy Idol, Mick Jagger, Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs and Mick Ronson, who had worked with David Bowie and Morrissey. 

Originally the band was to be called Big Brother, and the initial idea was to have a revolving door of lead singers, each one singing on a different track on the album.  English singer / songwriter Robert Palmer – who had released several albums since 1975, but with limited success around the globe – had performed live with Duran Duran once in 1983, and was the invited vocalist for the song, “Communication.”  Robert had heard they were doing a cover of “Get It On” and wanted to try out for it, and instead, the band ended up doing the whole album with Robert Palmer.

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The Power Station: Tony Thompson, John Taylor, Robert Palmer and Andy Taylor.

The entire band – Robert Palmer on vocals, John Taylor on bass, Andy Taylor on guitar, and Tony Thompson on those amazing drums – appeared on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on February 16, 1985, and were introduced to the world.  And from there, The Power Station was a hit, as was their self-titled album, which was certified Gold in the U.K. and reached the Top 10 on the BILLBOARD album chart. 

the power station LPThe “supergroup” also had three Top 40 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Some Like It Hot” (No. 6 for 2 weeks, May 1985), their cover of “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” (No. 9 for 2 weeks, August 1985, surpassing the No. 10 peak of the T. Rex original) and “Communication” (No. 34 for 2 weeks, October 1985).  (“Get It On” also reached No. 22 in the U.K., and No. 8 in Australia.) 

For those keeping score, The Power Station did fare better overall than the other equally short-lived Duran Duran side project, Arcadia, whose album, SO RED THE ROSE, was certified Platinum here in the U.S., and they had a couple of Top 40 singles – “Election Day” (No. 6, 1985) and “Goodbye Is Forever” (No. 33), as well as a MTV video hit with “The Flame.”

By the end of 1985, The Power Station was no more.  But, the experience breathed new Addicted_to_Lovelife and then some into Robert Palmer’s career.  Before the year was out, his eighth studio album, RIPTIDE, was released (recruiting fellow Power Stationers Bernard Edwards as producer, Andy Taylor on guitar, and Tony Thompson on drums).  It was the biggest album of Robert Palmer’s career.  Remember those memorable drums and that guitar solo on his No. 1 hit, “Addicted To Love?” – it was courtesy of Tony and Andy. 

Tony Thompson went on to provide drum support for some acts, and appeared in a few bands, along with the brief return of Chic in 1992.  John Taylor opted to return to Duran Duran, while Andy Taylor did not return in lieu of a solo career.  Both John and Andy had separate Top 30 singles on the Hot 100 in 1986, and both were movie songs.  Andy Taylor could also be found on other hit singles in the second half of the 80s, providing his guitar talents for several artists, notably on Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You” (1986) and “Lost In You” and “Forever Young,” from Rod Stewart’s 1989 album, OUT OF ORDER.

They would all get back together in 1996 for their second album, LIVING IN FEAR, though John Taylor had to drop out of the project and wasn’t on the record.  Bernard Edwards was all set to tour with The Power Station, but tragically died during a trip to Japan.  Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson both sadly passed away in 2003, within a couple months of each other.  Robert had just released a Blues album. 

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Duran Duran, 2015: Roger Taylor, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes Simon LeBon.

Today, Duran Duran is touring in support of their fourteenth studio album, the wonderful PAPER GODS (Andy Taylor did rejoin the band for their 2004 album, ASTRONAUT, but it was not to be, and the other band members have continued on without him).  With my dear friend Shawn, we saw Duran Duran (with Chic opening) in Brooklyn back in April 2016.  Both bands were brilliant, and both paid tribute to David Bowie.  It is one of THE best shows I’ve ever seen in my life.

And “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” is one of THE best covers I’ve ever heard.  You can hear John Taylor’s impressive, funky bass work; Andy Taylor’s killer guitar; the booming drums courtesy of Tony Thompson; and, the memorable, passionate vocals of Robert Palmer.  One of the things I loved most about The Power Station – and you can especially hear it on this song – is that every member of the “supergroup” is represented, and they never let you forget that… 

get it on

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2vHbXI2p4k

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(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “I Still Want You” | THE DEL FUEGOS | 1986.

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.

The 4-man Rock band The Del Fuegos were formed in Boston in 1980, and were comprised of Tom Lloyd (bass), Woody Giessmann (drums), and brothers Warren Zanes (guitars) and Dan Zanes (guitars / vocals). 

The band paid their dues and played wherever they could – bars, lofts, art galleries, clubs, frat houses, gymnasiums and even a state prison, which, over the years led to bigger venues like auditoriums and bigger theaters.

In 1984, the band released their debut album, THE LONGEST DAY, on Slash / Warner Bros. Records.  ROLLING STONE magazine named the band the Best New Band of 1984.  Tom Petty was apparently a fan (the band opened for him on one of his tours), as was Bruce Springsteen, who jumped on stage with them at one show to play the 60s classic, “Hang On Sloopy.”boston mass

The Del Fuegos were even in a Miller beer commercial in 1985.  Later that year, the band’s second album (of four) would become their biggest album – BOSTON, MASS.  Released in 1985, BOSTON, MASS. featured the singles “Don’t Run Wild” and “I Still Want You,” the latter of which became the band’s lone hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100. 

For months, the momentum for BOSTON, MASS. continued to build, and in late May 1986, “I Still Want You” made its debut on the Hot 100 at No. 96.  I remember the first time I heard the song, I initially thought the vocals belonged to Billy Idol, who I love, and once I realized who The Del Fuegos were, I went out and picked up the album.

horny mixYears later, I was excited to find the 45 of “I Still Want You” at a record show in Portland, Maine, and had to laugh, because it was an alternate version of the album version – it was called the “Horny Mix.”  It wasn’t anything sexual, it was a play on words, just meaning there were horns added to the mix.  Funny guys.  (You can even hear the horn section in the video.)

“I Still Want You” spent a couple weeks at No. 87 in June 1986 and was gone from the Hot 100 after just four weeks.  The following year, The Del Fuegos released their third album on Slash, STAND UP, which did not not fare as well as BOSTON, MASS., and Warner Bros. dropped them from the label.  The relationship of the Zanes brothers over time was strained, and after they lost their record deal, Warren Zanes and drummer Woody Giessmann left the band. 

Dan Zanes and bassist Tom Lloyd picked up a couple new members for the band, and they released their fourth album, 1989’s SMOKING IN THE FIELDS, on RCA Records.  Though the album did almost as well on the BILLBOARD album chart as BOSTON, MASS., the band broke up within a year, and of the experience, Dan Zanes said, “The ‘80s were over, we were over.”

After the demise of The Del Fuegos, in 1995, Dan Zanes would release a children’s album (as Dan Zanes and Friends), which won a Grammy Award.  Warren Zanes earned himself two Master’s Degrees and a Ph.D. in Visual and Cultural Arts, and is currently the Vice President of Education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (didn’t know there was such a thing, but that’s pretty cool).  Original bassist Tom Lloyd also earned himself a Ph.D., in Envrionmental Engineering, from CalTech in 1999, and original drummer Woody Giessmann founded Right Turn in 2003, a rehab program to help fellow artists with drug addiction and other mental health issues.

i still want you uk

Cover art for the U.K. single version of “I Still Want You.”

For a couple of dates in June 2011, the band got back together for the first time in 21 years for two performances at the famed Paradise Rock Club in Boston, Mass., where the shows raised money for Woody’s Right Turn rehab program.  That led to a reunion tour in 2012 and an 8-song EP titled SILVER STAR. 

Whether or not you consider “I Still Want You” a hit or the band as a (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s, one thing’s for sure – The Del Fuegos were a great Rock band, and a band (and song) I still want in my record library forever…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0bAX_iQ2rY

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Axel F” | HAROLD FALTERMEYER | 1985.

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.

Released in December 1984, the critically-acclaimed film BEVERLY HILLS COP not only shot Eddie Murphy into superstardom, the action comedy was one of the biggest films of the 1980s, and for nearly 20 years, it was the biggest R-rated film of all-time (today, it’s ranked at No. 7). 

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BEVERLY HILLS COP was even nominated for an Academy Award (Best Original Screenplay), two Golden Globe Awards, and won a Grammy Award for Best Soundtrack Score Album.  Thirteen people shared that Grammy Award, including Keith Forsey (Billy Idol, THE BREAKFAST CLUB score) and a Munich, Germany-born musician, composer and producer – Harold Faltermeyer.

Harold Faltermeyer has scored nearly 20 films, including BEVERLY HILLS COP II, FLETCH, THE RUNNING MAN, THIEF OF HEARTS and TOP GUN (both with Giorgio Moroder), and contributed to several more, including MIDNIGHT EXPRESS and AMERICAN GIGOLO (again, with Giorgio Moroder).  But, Harold Faltermeyer didn’t get his start in films.  Over the years, he’s worked as a songwriter, producer, arranger, musician and remixer for artists like The Sylvers, Janis Ian, Sparks, Laura Branigan, Billy Idol, Pet Shop Boys and Bonnie Tyler. Bad_Girls_LP

What started as a 1978 trip to Los Angeles to help Giorgio Moroder with the MIDNIGHT EXPRESS soundtrack turned into a 10-year collaboration between Giorgio Moroder and Harold Faltermeyer.  In 1979, Harold was involved with Giorgio on the making of BAD GIRLS, the double album by the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer.  Harold co-wrote five songs on the the album, including the first single, “Hot Stuff.” 

“Hot Stuff” was a massive hit that spent 3 weeks at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 and 14 weeks in the Top 10.  For 4 of those weeks, “Hot Stuff” and 5-week No. 1 “Bad Girls” (which Harold Faltermeyer arranged) were in the Top 3 simultaneously.

In 1984 and 1985, Harold got his big break with the BEVERLY HILLS COP soundtrack.  In addition to scoring the film, Harold also co-wrote (with Keith Forsey) Glenn Frey’s hit from the film, “The Heat Is On” (which spent a week at No. 2 on the Hot 100 in March 1985) and “Axel F,” the Synthpop instrumental theme from the film.

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Sticking bananas in the tailpipe of an unmarked police vehicle – the inspiration behind the instrumental “Axel F.”

Originally referred to by Harold Faltermeyer as “the banana theme” (“You’re not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe?!”), “Axel F” (short for Eddie Murphy’s character, Axel Foley) was a huge hit in its own right, spending three weeks at No. 3 on the Hot 100 in June 1985 (held out of the top spot by two big No. 1 songs – “Everything She Wants” by Wham! and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears For Fears).

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Around the globe, “Axel F” was a huge hit, reaching No. 1 in Holland and Ireland, and the Top 10 in the U.K., Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland, plus No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart AND Adult Contemporary chart (no easy feat), and No. 13 on the R&B chart.

In 2005, “Axel F” became a massive hit again, this time in the form of a novelty song by Crazy Frog (also known as the “Crazy Frog Song” – some of my youngest nieces enjoyed that version, God help me).  Somehow, this version was even bigger than the original, reaching No. 1 in 11 countries, while here in the U.S., it stopped (thankfully) at No. 50.cop_out

Most recently, Harold Faltermeyer scored – at the request of one of my all-time favorite directors, Kevin Smith – the 2010 film, COP OUT, starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan.

Though “Axel F” was Harold only American hit, he did reach No. 1 on the Hot 100 one more time as a writer, on Bob Seger’s “Shakedown” (from BEVERLY HILLS COP II; co-written with Bob Seger and Keith Forsey).  It was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.

Now 63, Harold Faltermeyer’s been pretty quiet for the past several years, but to me, he’ll always be a hit-writing, film-scoring, Synthpop pioneer, and the lone hit under his own name lives on for eternity through one of THE best films ever, by way of a banana…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qx2gvHjNhQ0

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song of the day – “Beat’s So Lonely” | CHARLIE SEXTON | 1986.

Today, Saturday, August 6, 2016, is the seventh anniversary of the passing the brilliant writer / producer / director / 80s film hero and a personal hero of mine, John Hughes.  John was in NYC when he died of a heart attack at the far too young age of 59.

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Over the past 20 years on my little 80s radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), there have been various tributes to John and the music from his films.  On the Sunday following his passing in 2009, I vowed to dedicate a show every August as a tribute to John.  On Sunday, August 7, 2016, it will be my eighth and last John Hughes tribute on STUCK IN THE 80s and WMPG.

One song that has made it on to nearly every tribute show I’ve done for John is a song that appeared in a brief but pivotal scene in 1987’s SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL (which John wrote and produced), and wasn’t on the soundtrack – “Beat’s So Lonely” by Charlie Sexton.

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In his early days, the San Antonio, Texas native was taught (along with his brother Will) how to play guitar by the “Godfather of Austin Blues,” W.C. Clark.  In 1982, not quite 14 years old, “Little Charlie” Sexton played a number of dates with the Joe Ely Band after that band’s guitarist broke some bones in his hand.

pictures for pleasureCharlie’s impressive guitar work was already legendary, especially for such a young man, and in 1985, then just 16 years old, he released his first album, PICTURES FOR PLEASURE.  On the album, Charlie Sexton merged Rock and Blues with New Wave, and instantly drew comparisons to David Bowie and Billy Idol (Keith Forsey, Billy’s longtime producer and collaborator – and the man who scored the John Hughes classic, THE BREAKFAST CLUB – produced PICTURES FOR PLEASURE).

The lone single from the album, “Beat’s So Lonely,” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-December 1985 and took its time climbing the chart, reaching the Top 40 two months later.  In early April 1986, (and a statistic only a singles chart nerd like myself can prolly appreciate), a then-17-year-old Charlie Sexton spent his third week at No. 17 (in its 17th chart week on the Hot 100) with “Beat’s So Lonely.”  And, after that, for 24 years, Charlie Sexton was a (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s.

beat's so lonely

Then, in 2010, following the devastating Haiti earthquake, Charlie appeared on a cover version of Leonard Cohen’s eternal “Hallelujah” with Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris on the HOPE FOR HAITI NOW compilation, to benefit those affected by the earthquake. “Hallelujah” was one of 19 performances from the live telethon, which also included folks like Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Madonna, Bono, The Edge and Stevie Wonder.  That version of “Hallelujah” reached No. 13 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 and was the most-downloaded song from the album.

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Charlie Sexton and David Bowie on stage together, 1987.

Charlie Sexton has released a total of four albums between 1985 and 2005, but he’s remained busy.  He performed in the brilliant 1991 Ridley Scott film, THELMA & LOUISE, and contributed to the soundtrack.  He was also a guitarist for Bob Dylan’s backing band from 1999 to 2002, and again from 2009 to 2012. 

To this day, Charlie continues to perform, supports other musicians such as Eric Clapton and Spoon, and has even done some more acting, appearing in the 2014 Richard Linklater film, BOYHOOD, nominated for six Academy Awards and picking up a win for Best Supporting Actress, Patricia Arquette.

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Charlie Sexton, in a scene from the 2014 film, BOYHOOD.

And on this day, yeah, the beat is lonelier without John Hughes around, but every time I play songs like Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science,” “Pretty In Pink” by The Psychedelic Furs, “Tenderness” by General Public, “If You Were Here” by Thompson Twins, OMD’s “If You Leave” or this gem by Charlie Sexton, I know the beat of John Hughes is still there, and as long as people keep playing the music from his films, and watching those amazing films, the beat will always be there, and maybe, not so lonely…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCRtHVEroQ0

charlie sexton 1985

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Video Killed The Radio Star” | THE BUGGLES | 1979.

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 Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers.  Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.mtv

This is prolly the most-predictable blog post I’ve done so far, but I can’t help it.  For those who don’t already know, today (8.1.2016) is the 35th Anniversary of the launch of MTV (short for Music Television, when there was such a beautiful thing).

At midnight on August 1, 1981, MTV was born – a cable network (and there weren’t many of them back then) that specialized in playing short, 3-or-4-minute films set to music, or simply put, music videos.  Singers and bands had been making these short-form music videos for years, but hardly anyone ever got to see them…until MTV made its debut on cable TV boxes (almost) everywhere.

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MTV moon landing, August 1, 1981, 12:00 midnight.

The powers that be at MTV thought it might be a fun choice to launch the network with a song called “Video Killed The Radio Star” by a band called The Buggles, a song that was a minor hit in America two years earlier by a London band who would no longer exist by the end of 1981.  It was prolly a hard sell at the time (or not), and in retrospect, it was THE only choice to kick off MTV.

The Buggles were a New Wave band (in the early days of New Wave) and formed in London in 1977.  The band consisted of just two members – singer and bassist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoffrey Downes.  You prolly know those names from other acts, and I’ll come on to that in a bit. 

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The original 1977 version of “Video Killed The Radio Star.”

Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes would release their first single, “Video Killed The Radio Star,” in early September 1979.  The song was co-written by Trevor and Geoff, along with fellow New Waver Bruce Woolley in 1977, who first recorded that year as Bruce Woolley And The Camera Club (featuring the brilliant Thomas Dolby on keyboards). 

At the time, “Video Killed The Radio Star” was a stand-alone single (parent album THE AGE OF PLASTIC wouldn’t be released until January 1980), and its cute, synthpop creaminess helped it become a massive international hit. 

“Video Killed The Radio Star” reached No. 1 in (at least) the U.K., Austria and Sweden (1 week), Ireland and Switzerland (2 weeks), Spain (4 weeks), Australia (7 weeks), France (12 weeks), and in Italy, where it spent 14 weeks at No. 1 (or, literally the entire spring of 1980).  It also reached the Top 10 in Belgium, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and South Africa.

video killed the radio star

When MTV debuted with “Video Killed The Radio Star” as the first video to air on the network, I was (and remain) glad that it’s remembered for something more here in America than its disappointing chart performance on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  The song spent a lone week in the Top 40 at No. 40 in mid-December 1979, and was gone from the chart after 10 weeks.  In a list put out by BILLBOARD in 2015, “Video Killed The Radio Star” tied with Marvin Gaye’s 1970 version of Gladys Knight’s “The End Of Our Road” as the “Biggest Hot 100 Hit” that peaked at No. 40.the age of plastic

In 1980, following the release of The Buggles’ debut album, THE AGE OF PLASTIC (with “Video Killed The Radio Star”), Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes joined another London band,Yes, and recorded the album, DRAMA, after Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman had left the group.  Trevor Horn sang lead vocals and it was the only Yes album to feature him as lead vocalist.  But, despite a No. 2 chart peak for DRAMA in the U.K., the new Yes lineup was not well-received, and Yes disbanded by the end of 1980.

In early 1981, on the day The Buggles were supposed to start recording their second album, Geoff Downes quit the band to help form the “supergroup” Asia with guitarist Steve Howe (of Yes), John Wetton (bassist and vocalist bands like King Crimson, Roxy Music and Uriah Heep) and Carl Palmer (drummer for Emerson, Lake & Palmer).adventures in

Undeterred and still carrying on the Buggles name, Trevor Horn secured funds to record and release the second album, ADVENTURES IN MODERN RECORDING.  Despite Trevor’s efforts, the album was a huge disappointment, reaching No. 161 on the BILLBOARD album chart and not even charting in his U.K. homeland.

By the time of the second album’s release, you could find Trevor Horn producing THE LEXICON OF LOVE, the debut album for the Sheffield, England New Wave band, ABC.  What followed is an amazing career that continues today.  Not only did Trevor Horn rejoin Yes for their huge 1983 comeback album, 90125 (which he produced), he also teamed up with The Art Of Noise, writing memorable hits like “Close (To The Edit)” and “Moments In Love.”

close to the edit

From there, Trevor Horn was everywhere.  He produced Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 2-album debut, WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME, the 12” mix of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (the biggest-selling U.K. single of the 80s), plus music for Grace Jones, Pet Shop Boys, Simple Minds, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, and most-recently, Billy Idol’s 2014 album, KINGS & QUEENS OF THE UNDERGROUND and Seal’s 2015 album, 7 (Trevor Horn has actually produced six of Seal’s 9 albums, starting with Seal’s 1991 self-titled debut).

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Seal’s 2015 release, 7, produced by Trevor Horn.

Geoff Downes has released 13 albums with Asia since their monster 1982 debut to their 2014 album, GRAVITAS.  He also rejoined Yes (along with Trevor Horn) for the 2011 album, FLY FROM HERE.

There have been impromptu Buggles reunions here and there over the years, and in a statement I thought I would never, ever see, according to the BBC, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes reunited in the studio earlier this year “for more Buggles activity.”  I look forward to that.

In 2013, Heather Phares of allmusic.com said “[Video Killed The Radio Star] can be looked on as a perfectly preserved new wave gem [and] still sounds as immediate as it did when it was released, however, and that may be the song’s greatest irony.”

mtv classicSpeaking of irony, today (8.1.2016) also marks the demise of the wonderful VH1 Classic (famous for playing great 80s videos) and the debut of MTV Classic, highlighting (mostly non-music) programming from the 90s and beyond.  Sure, the new network was scheduled to rebroadcast the first hour of MTV from August 1, 1981, but don’t count on MTV Classic to bring you many more music videos.  While they will have I WANT MY 80s, 120 MINUTES and some old BEHIND THE MUSIC episodes, I’m betting they’ll be concentrating more on re-airing shows like THE REAL WORLD, TOTAL REQUEST LIVE and MTV CRIBS, shows I could really give two shits about.

MTV may be turning 35 today, but it’s hardly cause for celebration, as the once-great network for actual music television has, ironically enough, killed the video star (although to be fair, you can see pretty much every video known to man and woman somewhere on the interwebs).

MTV opinions and peak chart positions aside, I always liked “Video Killed The Radio Star.”  It is a quirky, fun song that, for awhile, I kinda thought was some sort of cool extension of ABBA.  Over the years, it’s been covered by the likes of The Presidents Of The United States Of America (for the 1998 Adam Sandler film, THE WEDDING SINGER), Pomplamoose, Pentatonix, Erasure, Ben Folds Five and even Alvin & The Chipmunks. 

I’m glad the song has endured for nearly 40 years now.  In fact, I’m betting it will outlast MTV.  Maybe Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes are working on a follow-up titled, “Video Killed The Radio Star, and MTV too.”  Guess we’ll have to wait to find out later for sure and just continue loving that original New Wave treasure…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwuy4hHO3YQ

the buggles