song of the day – “Take Me With U” | PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION featuring APOLLONIA | 1985.

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 2 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 2 this day.  4 me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks 2 the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, 4 the entire month of June, I will B 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 2 No. 1. 

As Casey used 2 say on AT40, “And on we go!”

When my radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s, had its final show on my 50th birthday – and during the Maine Blizzard Of 2017 (Hope, Shawn and I had 2 literally shut WMPG-FM down afterwards; Shawn: “We’re rockin’ so hard, the station cannot handle it anymore!”; Hope: “No one can follow U Ron!”). 

shawn, hope + me

With the 2017 Maine blizzard in the window behind us, from L to R that’s Shawn, Hope and yours truly all sporting STUCK IN THE 80s T-shirts on the final STUCK broadcast on WMPG-FM, 2.12.17.

One of the songs I chose 4 the last show was “Take Me With U” by Prince & The Revolution featuring Apollonia.  As I mentioned on the last show, and will re-mention here (if I haven’t already on the bloggy thing), it’s one of my all-time favorite Prince songs that DOESN’T get nearly enough love as it should.

purple rain

Released as the last of five singles from 1984’s PURPLE RAIN and written by Prince (of course), “Take Me With U” was a duet between Prince and Apollonia Kotero, who played Prince’s girlfriend in PURPLE RAIN.  “Take Me With U” was initially 2 have appeared on the APOLLONIA 6 album (released on October 1, 1984, and featured one song from PURPLE RAIN – “Sex Shooter,” which Apollonia 6 played in the film). 

But, with Prince being rightfully particular about his songs (4 example, all of his videos that went back up after he died have all pretty much been removed from YouTube), he pulled the song off of the APOLLONIA 6 album, and included it on PURPLE RAIN. 

prince + the revolution

All of the singles from (and of course, the entire album) PURPLE RAIN were sensational, but unlike the other singles released from the soundtrack, “Take Me With U” had this really cool vibe 2 it, featuring a drum solo and finger cymbals at the beginning and the end of the song.  This Psychedelic-y style might have actually been the precursor 2 his next album, AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY, especially on the singles “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life.”

“Take Me With U” was released on January 25, 1985, exactly seven months after the release of the soundtrack 2 PURPLE RAIN, and almost exactly six months after the release of the film, and it only took a couple of weeks 4 the single 2 debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (at No. 61).

take me with u

Reaching the Top 40 of the Hot 100 in just its fourth chart week, “Take Me With U” became the fifth Top 40 single from PURPLE RAIN, and, at that point, Prince became just the seventh recording artist in history (if my math is correct) 2 have five or more Top 40 hits released from one album on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, following Michael Jackson’s THRILLER, Lionel Richie’s CAN’T SLOW DOWN, Billy Joel’s AN INNOCENT MAN, SPORTS by Huey Lewis & The News, Tina Turner’s PRIVATE DANCER, and the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, and her wonderful SHE’S SO UNUSUAL.  (The Cars would join that group a week later with “Why Can’t I Have You,” the excellent and highly-underrated fifth single from their fantastic 1984 album, HEARTBEAT CITY.)

“Take Me With U” spent a couple of weeks at No. 25 in late March 1985, and without much fanfare, faded out of the Hot 100 after 12 short weeks.  Over in the U.K., it was a double A-sided single with “Let’s Go Crazy,” and it reached No. 7.  I would like 2 think the folks in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland didn’t just listen 2 “Let’s Go Crazy” (as awesome as that song is), and flipped the record over and really enjoyed “Take Me With U” too.

let's go crazy take me with u

Everyone in The Revolution was involved with this gem, and the unity involved with this song is amazing.  And, 4 those who didn’t already own PURPLE RAIN by the end of January 1985, when “Take Me With U” was released, and were kind enough 2 buy the single anyway, and 2 those radio stations who were kind enough 2 play it, I thank U.  “Take Me With U” is that sorta-forgotten gem (though not by me) that, when U listen 2 it 4 the first time in awhile, U will remember why U loved it all those years ago, and, like me, U will love it 4evah…

“I don’t care where we go / I don’t care what we do / I don’t care pretty baby / Just take me with u…”

prince + apollonia

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 – “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

song of the day – “Clones (We’re All)” | ALICE COOPER | 1980.

forever young blog logoFor whatever reason(s), I’ve been unintentionally lax in my FOREVER YOUNG: MY LIFE STUCK IN THE 80s blog post output so far this year.  Last year, between January 11, 2016 (my first-ever blog post), until June 1, 2016, I had written 111 blog posts.  Not bad for a first-timer.  From January 4, 2017 through today, June 1, 2017, I’ve posted less than half of that 2016 amount.  Well, that changes right now.

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).

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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, and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  Today’s “song of the day” (June 1, 2017) will feature 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!”

In the 1970s, Alice Cooper was famous for his “snake-eyes” makeup and his being “The Godfather Of Shock Rock,” from Rockin’ songs like “School’s Out,” his first hit, “I’m Eighteen” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and awesome ballads like “Only Women Bleed,” “I Never Cry” and “You And Me.” 

welcome to my nightmare, 1975

Alice Cooper on the WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE tour, 1975.

It was his ballads, actually, that gave Alice Cooper his biggest hits in the 70s, which isn’t really that strange, because if you think about it, just about all of the big Rock bands of the 70s, 80s and even 90s had their biggest success with a ballad (pardon me, that should prolly read “power ballad”) – a list that includes but is not limited to Styx, Journey, Cheap Trick, Foreigner, Scorpions, Night Ranger, The Cars, Boston, REO Speedwagon, Heart, Kiss, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Poison, Queensrÿche, Warrant, Winger, Europe, Cinderella, Skid Row, Bad English (featuring John Waite) and Aerosmith, whose big song from the biggest film of 1998, ARMAGEDDON – “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” – gave the Boston band not only their first (and sole) No. 1 song, but their biggest hit in the 25 years they had been together at that point.

Well, by 1980, Alice Cooper wanted to try something new.  He ditched the makeup  and recorded the 28-minute album, FLUSH THE FASHION, with popular producer, Roy Thomas Baker, who, in the two years previous to FLUSH THE FASHION, had worked with bands like The Cars, Foreigner, Journey and Queen.

flush the fashion

FLUSH THE FASHION had a sort of New Wave influence, and since its release, it has been hailed as a “hidden gem” in the 26 studio albums Alice has released since 1969 (his 27th, PARANORMAL, is scheduled to be released in late July 2017).  At the time of the release of FLUSH THE FASHION, though, many longtime fans were bewildered at the change in Alice’s sound.

Still, FLUSH THE FASHION became Alice Cooper’s biggest album in three years, and returned him to the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for the first time in two years. alice clones

“Clones (We’re All)” was the first single released from the album, making its debut on the Hot 100 in mid-May 1980 at No. 77, just a few weeks after the release of FLUSH THE FASHION.  “Clones” had risen to No. 51 by early June, and reached No. 40 on July 5, 1980, but, sadly like Blondie’s brilliant “Atomic” (No. 39 that week), both songs lost steam and plummeted down more than half the chart the following week after just nine weeks on the Hot 100.

NERDY AT40 FACT: To my knowledge, “Clones (We’re All)” was actually never mentioned by Casey Kasem, because on that chart dated July 5, 1980, AMERICAN TOP 40 aired a special broadcast of the “AMERICAN TOP 40 Book Of Records” that week, so “Clones” was never even played on AT40 because it was gone from the Top 40 that following week.

“Clones” did have some chart success elsewhere, reaching No. 15 in Canada, No. 36 in Australia, No. 58 in Germany, and somehow all 2 minutes and 51 seconds of “Clones” was serviced to Dance clubs, and it actually reached No. 69 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.

alice 1980 v2

Alice Cooper, 1980.

I’m not sure exactly how “Clones,” a song about forced conformity (“I’m all alone, so are we all / We’re all clones / All are one and one are are all…”), came onto my music radar, I just really liked it.  Strangely enough, today was the first time I ever saw the music video for “Clones,” and if videos were as popular then as they would be a year or so later, and if the 13-year-old version of myself had seen Alice’s frail-looking and somewhat menacing appearance, I am not sure if I would have changed my mind about the song.  But, honestly, whatever attracted me to this odd and yet topically-interesting song still attracts me to it 37 years later.

After “Clones” and FLUSH THE FASHION, his next few albums fizzled and most of the 80s were not good to Alice Cooper.  But, by 1989, he was on a new record label and returned with a vengeance with the album TRASH, his first Platinum album since 1975, which featured the biggest hit of his career – no, not a power ballad this time – the Hard Rockin’ “Poison.”  That song was certified as a Gold single and reached No. 7 on the Hot 100, plus it reached the Top 10 in (at least) the U.K., Australia, Austria, Canada, Holland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden.  Alice Cooper was back. 

Alice_Cooper_–_Poison

From the “Poison” music video…

In 1992, Alice appeared as himself in the highly successful and fun film adaptation of the SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit, WAYNE’S WORLD, where he performed at a concert and got his intellectual on about Milwaukee, Wisconsin backstage with Wayne (Mike Meyers) and Garth (Dana Carvey).  In my humble opinion, they’re all worthy.

wayne's world

On top of a new album release this summer (an album which features contributions from Larry Mullen of U2 and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, among others), Alice will be co-headlining a tour in August with Deep Purple and Edgar Winter.

DeepPurple_AliceCooper_Instagram_1080x1080_Static

You know, regardless of chart positions, I’ve always found it interesting how there’s no rhyme or reason to which songs we choose to like and keep liking and loving over the years, but when when do like and love them, those songs really matter, and will forever. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, or the radio dial if you prefer, as much as I love radio, and loved being involved in it for the better part of 32 years (so far), you’ve gotta wonder how a commercial and/or conglomerate station determines what songs are deemed “worthy” of being played forever and what songs are left behind.  I suppose that’s been the case all along (I mean, how else can you explain two great songs dropping 53 places out of the Top 40 from one week to the next?). 

stuck-in-the-80s-20-yearsI know for me, for many great shows on community stations like WMPG, and for shows like Barry Scott’s “The Lost 45s” and the (unrelated) STUCK IN THE 80s podcast based in Florida, I could never forget the amazing songs I loved from my youth and discovered into adulthood and beyond.  And I was proud to share them for nearly 21 years on my weekly STUCK IN THE 80s radio show on WMPG in Portland, Maine, and will again, because I’m sure I’m not the only one out there that feels this way. 

I love Billy Joel, but every time I hear his overrated “Big Shot,” I can’t help but cringe (The guy’s got a gajillion songs!  Play another one!).  The song jumped from No. 51 to No. 23 on the Hot 100 and stopped at No. 14 three weeks later, and yet it’s been deemed “worthy” for radio eternity by the powers that be.  Play something different, dammit!  Give me 1980’s “Sometimes A Fantasy” every day of the week and twice on Sunday (and look for it in an upcoming blog post, dammit!). 

I don’t know, after listening to commercial stations for nearly 40 years, from the big conglomerate ones to the locally-owned ones with diminutive, covfefe head GMs who think 80s Hard Rock songs should be played back-to-back with the likes of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, maybe it’s those programmers and radio heads who are the ones that are clones. 

As I am, unlike these sad folks, not a drone or a clone, I think the best response I can give to that is this simple but appropriate quote from Alice’s mostly-forgotten kick-ass gem from 1980:

“I just want wanna be myself / I just wanna be myself / I just wanna be myself / Be myself / Be myself…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q3ly1d-WGw

alice cooper 1980

song of the day – “The Way It Is” | BRUCE HORNSBY AND THE RANGE | 1986.

There are some songs out there that can’t be grouped in with ballads or Dance or straight up Rock ’n’ Roll songs because they don’t fit in any of those categories.  But, you know, just because you can’t shake your booty to them or you prolly can’t slow dance to them at a wedding reception doesn’t mean they aren’t good; it just means they don’t really fit into any particular category you’re used to.  Case in point, at least for me, is today’s “song of the day” – “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby And The Range. 

Bruce Hornsby, a native of Williamsburg, Virginia, first got his music “start” in 1974 in a band put together by his older brother, Bobby (then a student at the University of Virginia), called Bobby Hi-Test And The Octane Kids, playing covers of songs by The Band, Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers at frat parties. 

That gig didn’t last long, but Bruce’s association with music continued.  He studied music at the University of Richmond, Boston’s Berklee School Of Music, and the University of Miami, where he graduated from in 1977.  After college, he went back to Williamsburg for a short time and played piano in clubs and bars before meeting up with his younger brother, John, in Los Angeles in 1980. 

QUIRKY FUN FACT(S): You can find Bruce Hornsby at the ol’ 88’s and hamming it up for the camera in Sheena Easton’s late 1984 hit, “Strut,” a song that was co-written by Charlie Dore, one of the (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s with her own 1980 hit, “Pilot Of The Airwaves.”  Bruce Hornsby was a member of Sheena’s touring band, and he also appeared in the video for Sheena’s Prince-penned and PMRC target practice favorite, “Sugar Walls.”

Bruce Hornsby STRUT

Yes, that’s really Bruce Hornsby in the 1984 video for Sheena Easton’s “Strut.”

In between his time in L.A. and touring with Sheena Easton, he formed a five-man Rock band called Bruce Hornsby And The Range, and they were signed to RCA Records in 1985.  Their debut album, THE WAY IT IS, was released on April 1, 1986, and seven of the nine songs on the album were written by Bruce Hornsby and his younger brother, John.  Bruce wrote the songs “Every Little Kiss” and the album’s title track.

The first incarnation of the album, was, oddly enough, targeted to New Age listeners (which I’m still trying to figure out).  The album even had a different cover that prolly most people who are familiar with the album haven’t seen, with an impressionistic shot of Bruce Hornsby playing the accordion.

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The original cover art for THE WAY IT IS album.

every little kiss

A couple of months following the release of THE WAY IT IS, the first single released from the album was “Every Little Kiss,” which took two months to debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 and stopped at No. 72 in August 1986, but which still managed to stay on the chart for a couple months.

Well, once “Every Little Kiss” started getting airplay, THE WAY IT IS album got remixed, and a new cover was commissioned, this time with a darker, sepia-toned color, with a simple shot of the band in the foreground, and a shot of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the background.  The change must have worked.

the way it is LP

The last week “Every Little Kiss” was on the Hot 100, the album’s title track debuted at No. 86.  By the following week, it had already surpassed the peak of “Every Little Kiss.”  “The Way It Is” reached the Top 40 in mid-October and the Top 10 a month later. 

I think what latched me onto “The Way It Is” at first was the impressive way Bruce Hornsby knew his way around a piano.  You don’t normally hear piano solos in Pop songs, let alone two of them in the same song.  Still impresses me to this day.  It didn’t sound like anything else, and it certainly didn’t sound like a Pop song, popular at the same time as songs by Bon Jovi, The Bangles, Peter Cetera and Amy Grant, Huey Lewis And The News, Duran Duran and Wang Chung. 

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This is a song which brings up homelessness, the welfare divide of the rich and the poor, the Civil Rights movement and racism: “Well they passed a law in ’64 / To give those who ain’t got a little more / But it only goes so far / ‘Cause the law don’t change another’s mind / When all it sees at the hiring time / Is the line on the color bar, no…”

Well, it may not have fit in at wedding receptions or night clubs, but “The Way It Is” was a big hit with record buyers and radio listeners, and it spent a week at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-December 1986, and finished at No. 8 for all of 1987.

Around the globe, “The Way It Is” reached No. 1 in Holland, No. 3 in Belgium, No. 4 in Canada, No. 8 in Ireland, and the Top 20 in the U.K., Germany, South Africa and Switzerland.

After the success of “The Way It Is,” Bruce and his band picked up the Best New Artist Grammy Award and would release two more studio albums together, going on to have hits with “Mandolin Rain” (No. 4, 1987), a re-issue of “Every Little Kiss” (No. 14, 1987),  “The Valley Road” (No. 5, 1988), “Look Out Any Window” (No. 35, 1988) and “Across The River” (No. 18, 1990). 

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Bruce Hornsby would also have a songwriting credit (with his brother, John) on a No. 1 song by Huey Lewis And The News – “Jacob’s Ladder,” which spent a week at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-March 1987, and which Bruce and The Range would record for their second album, 1988’s SCENES FROM THE SOUTHSIDE.  Incidentally, Huey Lewis co-produced THE WAY IT IS album, and played harmonica and provided backing vocals on the album track, “Down The Road Tonight.”

In a 2015 interview with Kate Mossman of the NEW STATESMAN, a political and cultural U.K. magazine, Bruce Hornsby was asked why “The Way It Is” was so successful, which he couldn’t do.  But, he did say, “I see it as a novelty record.  There are things that set it apart.  I feel the same way about ‘Sultans of Swing’ by Dire Straits.  It goes down easy and isn’t that what a lot of pop is about?  But at the same time, it’s a completely different sound than you’d heard.  Even the big piano guys like Elton and Billy Joel, they didn’t really solo like that.  A pleasing sound with solos.  Like Mark Knopfler on ‘Sultans of Swing.’  That’s how I explain it.  But that’s complete crap, too, probably.”

That same year, Elton John had said when Bruce Hornsby played piano on Bonnie Raitt’s 1991 beautiful heartbreaking gem, “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” it made him “seek perfection.  It is sublime.  He is one of the best pianists – if not THE best – out there.”

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Bruce has long since left Pop music and has gone his own way, playing music from a plethora of genres, like Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass, Jam Band, Gospel and most recently, performing with his Rock / Folk touring band, The Noisemakers.  Interestingly enough, on their fourth studio album, REHAB REUNION (released in June 2016), Bruce Hornsby does NOT play the instrument for which is world-renowned, but instead plays the dulcimer, an instrument that the incomparable Cyndi Lauper has embraced on her albums and tours for many years.  There’s even a sweet, almost unrecognizable seven-minute folk version of his 1988 hit, “The Valley Road,” on the album.  It’s actually quite lovely.

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Bruce Hornsby sure has come a long way from appearing in Sheena Easton videos and picking up a No. 1 hit of his own.  And, for more than 30 years, he had some success, and has performed with some of his music heroes, like Sting, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Grateful Dead, Don Henley, Ricky Scaggs and Bonnie Raitt, to name a few.  Now, Bruce is 62, married with twin adult sons, plays basketball when he’s not playing music (he’s 6’ 4”), and plays music for the absolute love of it.  You gotta respect that.  I know I do.

“That’s just the way it is / Some things will never change…”  Or, in the case of Bruce Hornsby, maybe they do…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOeKidp-iWo

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song of the day – “Over The Hills And Far Away” (12” Mix) | GARY MOORE | 1987.

Well, just two STUCK IN THE 80s shows to go on WMPG community radio (in Portland, Maine, USA)!  Wow.  This past Sunday, 1.29.2017, my awesome and talented WMPG radio neighbor, DJ SHAXX (host of the kick-ass LEFT OF THE DIAL), and I teamed up for a second installment in celebrating the 12-inch single, extended remixes and even mash-ups on a show that we called 12inchTHROWDOWN Redux! 

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The 12” single, to my knowledge, got its start during the disco era of the 70s, but it was during the 80s where the 12” single really flourished.  One of the great things I love about the history of the 12” single during the 80s is that almost everyone in the music industry felt compelled to commission at least one 12” extended mix, whether or not they really needed to (i.e. Billy Joel, Chicago, Toto, Matthew Wilder, Nena, Bruce Springsteen). 

In the 80s, you had 12” extended mixes from all walks of music life – with artists like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, INXS, Michael Jackson, New Order and Pet Shop Boys leading the way.  The most surprising 12” dance mixes came from Rock and Roll artists.  In the 80s, Rock bands like The Cult, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, ZZ Top and AC/DC all released 12” extended and/or dance mixes of some of their songs.

One Rock artist who was talked into releasing at least a couple of remixes in the 80s was the late, great Gary Moore, from Belfast, Northern Ireland.  In the 70s, Gary was a member of the Irish Rock bands Skid Row and Thin Lizzy. 

For his sixth studio album, 1985’s RUN FOR COVER, Gary teamed up with his former Thin Lizzy bandmate, Phil Lynott, on the song, “Out In The Fields,” about the religious issues they faced in their native Ireland.  Shortly after the song’s success, Phil Lynott died at the young age of 36 in early January 1986.

out-in-the-fields

Gary was off of my music radar until his next album, WILD FRONTIER (most notably the album’s first single, “Over The Hills And Far Away”) was released in March 1987.  The album features many songs about Ireland and throughout the album, there’s a powerful Celtic presence, especially on “Over The Hills And Far Away.”  I think that (along with the incredible assist of a drum machine, believe it or not) is what attracted me to the song. and ultimately, the album.

wild-frontier

“Over The Hills And Far Away” is a song about a man who was sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and longs for the day he gets out to be with the woman he loves (“Over the hills and far away / She prays he will return one day / As sure as the rivers reach the sea / Back in her arms is where he’ll be…”).

over-the-hills

The creative non-trad 12” extended mix of “Over The Hills And Far Away” starts off with Gary walking over to a couple of doors from his music past, or rather Gary revisiting a couple of songs from the previous album, RUN FOR COVER – the aforementioned “Out In The Fields,” and “Empty Rooms.”  He opens the door to each song via the sound of a creaky door (i.e. his guitar), and then promptly closes each door once the quick sampling of each song was done.  From there, he walks over to another creaky door, opens it (again, via his guitar) and then, replete with that powerful drum machine beat, Gary rips into that same guitar and starts wailing with everything he’s got.  At the end of the song, the door to “Over The Hills And Far Away” closes too.  This 12” mix was one of the highlights of the 12inchTHROWDOWN Redux show from the other night.

Following the release of his next Rock album, 1989’s AFTER THE WAR, Gary achieved his biggest success with 1990’s STILL GOT THE BLUES album, which featured the likes of Blues legends Albert King and Albert Collins, and The Beatles’ George Harrison.  It was certified Gold here in the U.S., Finland and Germany.  It was certified Platinum in the U.K., Australia and Switzerland, and Double-Platinum in Sweden. 

still-got-the-blues

Gary Moore would continue to release (mostly) Blues albums through 2008.  He sadly passed away of a heart attack in early February 2011 at the young age of 58.  He was beloved by many, especially folks in the Rock music field, including Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Geldof, Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen, Bryan Adams and Henry Rollins.  In Skånevik, Norway, a large statue was erected of Gary Moore, in honor of his many performances at the Skånevik Blues Festival.  

I remember Gary mostly for his massive guitar talents, especially on that amazing 1987 song that always takes me “over the hills and far away…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SgQUi9uJrc

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song of the day – “Ain’t Even Done With The Night” | JOHN MELLENCAMP | 1981.

Happy 2017 everyone!  Hope your holiday season treated you well!

For the January 8, 2017 edition of STUCK IN THE 80s, my little retro radio show on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, I’ll be hosting my final (?) All-Request Fest.  It’s something I thought of years ago as a way to give back to everyone who tuned in to the show and pledged money on STUCK IN THE 80s during the bi-annual pledge drives.  From Pop to Punk, Rap to Rock, New Wave to New Romantics, it’s about the listeners and their requests, and it’s always spontaneous and fun. 

stuck-all-request-fest

For this final (?) edition of the All-Request Fest, I’ll also be channeling my inner chart nerd and will bring folks 17 for ’17, where I’ll be playing just some of the many songs that peaked at No. 17 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989.  So, from now until the All-Request Fest, I’ll be posting all No. 17 hits…just because, well, I AM a chart nerd.  And I’m okay with that.

Today’s installment was the first Top 20 hit (third hit overall) for the artist formerly known as John Cougar – 1981’s “Ain’t Even Done With The Night,” from the 1980 album, NOTHIN’ MATTERS AND WHAT IF IT DID (his fourth album).

On the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Ain’t Even Done With The Night” debuted at No. 81 in late January ’81, and by mid-March, it became the third Top 40 hit for the Seymour, Indiana native, following “I Need A Lover” (December 1979, No. 28) and “This Time” (December 1980, No. 27).  It went on to spend two weeks at No. 17 in May 1981, about a year before his life would change forever with his next Top 40 hit, “Hurts So Good.”

In Canada, “Ain’t Even Done With The Night” was John’s first Top 40 hit, and first Top 10 hit, reaching No. 6.

nothin-matters

In 1983, three years after the release of NOTHIN’ MATTERS AND WHAT IF IT DID (his first Platinum album), and the first year John incorporated his real last name as part of his stage name – John Cougar Mellencamp – he did a memorable interview with RECORD MAGAZINE about his discontent with the album:

“The singles were stupid little pop songs.  I take no credit for that record.  It wasn’t like the title was made up – it wasn’t supposed to be punky or cocky like some people thought.  Toward the end, I didn’t even go to the studio.  Me and the guys in the band thought we were finished, anyway.  It was the most expensive record I ever made.  It cost $280,000, do you believe that?  The worst thing was that I could have gone on making records like that for hundreds of years.  Hell, as long as you sell a few records and the record company isn’t putting a lot of money into promotion, you’re making money for ‘em and that’s all they care about.  PolyGram loved NOTHIN’ MATTERS.  They thought I was going to turn into the next Neil Diamond.”

Well, John didn’t turn into the next Neil Diamond.  What he did turn into was a Rock superstar, one of the founding members of Farm Aid, a 2008 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee in 2008, and the ninth-biggest BILLBOARD singles recording artist of the 1980s, with 16 consecutive Top 40 hits between 1980 and 1988 (including nine Top 10 hits and one No. 1 – 1982’s “Jack And Diane”).

By his eleventh studio album, WHENEVER WE WANTED, in 1991 (featuring the Top 15 hit, “Get A Leg Up”), he was credited (finally) by his given name of John Mellencamp, and stayed with Mercury through 1996.

Even though John may not have thought much of the song (or album) at the time, I’ve always been a fan of “Ain’t Even Done With The Night,” mainly because it’s one of the songs that turned me on to the music of John Mellencamp.  And for that reason, I’ll be forever grateful. 

I think Billy Joel said it best when he inducted John into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2008, in a statement that could have been said yesterday: “Don’t let this club membership change you, John.  Stay ornery, stay mean.  We need you to be pissed off, and restless because no matter what they tell us – we know this country is going to hell in a handcart.

“This country’s been hijacked.  You know it, and I know it.  People are worried.  People are scared, and people are angry.   People need to hear a voice like yours that’s out there to echo the discontent that’s out there in the heartland.  They need to hear stories about it.  They need to hear stories about frustration, alienation and desperation. 

“They need to know that somewhere out there somebody feels the way that they do in the small towns and in the big cities.  They need to hear it.  And it doesn’t matter if they hear it on a jukebox, in the local gin mill, or in a goddamn truck commercial because they ain’t gonna hear it on the radio any more.  They don’t care how they hear it as long as they hear it good and loud and clear the way you’ve always been saying it all along.  You’re right, John, this is still our country.”

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John Mellencamp and Billy Joel, at the 2008 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony…

Keep the good thought, John, and keep on rockin’ this U.S. of A.…

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

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