song of the day – “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” | OUTLAWS | 1981.

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!”

There are some songs in the history of music that just keep coming back and back and back again.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the late songwriter and actor, Stan Jones (who died of cancer in 1963 at the age of 49) would be flattered to the moon and back and then some.

Ranger-Stan

“(Ghost) Riders” writer and originator, Stan Jones.

When Stan Jones wasn’t acting in Westerns directed by the legendary (and Portland, Maine native) John Ford, he was writing songs, and one of those songs, a 1948 composition (written at the time he worked for the National Park Service in Death Valley, California) titled “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky: A Cowboy Legend” became a legend all its own.

Stan Jones recorded his original version of “(Ghost) Riders” in late 1948, and from there, it became one of the most-covered songs in history.  Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Peggy Lee, The Ventures, Bob James and Dick Dale have covered it.  So have Tom Jones, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy and Peter, Paul & Mary.  Deborah Harry of Blondie recorded a trance version of it in 1998, and more recently, Judy Collins, Concrete Blonde and various Death Metal bands have covered this classic.

debbie harry riders

Pretty bleepin’ cool.

“(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” has even reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in four different versions.  In 1961, The Ramrods (an Instrumental Rock band out of Connecticut) reached No. 30, and Lawrence Welk reached No. 87 with his version.  In 1966, the Baja Marimba Band took it to No. 52.  And, in 1981, Southern Rockers the Outlaws scored the second-highest charted version in BILLBOARD Hot 100 history with their cool, rockin’ 6-minute cover.

ghost riders LP

The Outlaws, formed in Tampa, Florida in 1967,  released their sixth studio album, GHOST RIDERS, in late November 1980.  The band had some moderate success in the 70s with their 1975 hit, “There Goes Another Love Song,” reaching the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100.ghost riders 7

The single released from GHOST RIDERS was “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky.”  It made its Hot 100 debut at No. 83 on the last chart of 1980, a couple of days after Xmas.

Throughout the first weeks of 1981, the Outlaws steadily climbed the Hot 100, entering the Top 40 on Valentine’s Day 1981.  “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” reached No. 31 in early March 1981, but fell out of the Top 40 the following week and left the Hot 100 in early April 1981 after 15 weeks on the chart.  It was the last time the band would reach the Hot 100.

Bruce Willis Performs in Las Vegas

Bruce Willis as John McClane singing “(Ghost) Riders?”  It could happen!

DREAM COVER: Someone should get Bruce Willis to cover this song, but as his famous character from the DIE HARD films, John McClane – “Yippe-ki-yay (motherfucker)!  Yippie-ki-yo (motherfucker)!”  Wouldn’t that be fun?

The Outlaws have been around for the better part of 50 years, with a long list of lineup changes that would take up another post entirely.  None of the original members are still with the band (a couple of them died in 1995, another in 2007).    They released their last studio album, IT’S ABOUT PRIDE, in 2012, and their fifth live album, LEGACY LIVE (a 2-CD set), in 2016.

legacy live

It’s hard to believe that I had nearly forgotten about this amazing cover from the Outlaws when Hope brought it to my attention years ago.  Long story longer, I fell in love with this version all over again and played it on STUCK IN THE 80s often during the show’s last several years.

And if I were a betting man, I think Stan Jones might have have been much more than flattered when he heard The Outlaws version, and I think he would have raised his fist up and started jammin’ to it, or at the very least, tipped his cowboy hat in appreciation.  Yippie-yi-yaaaay.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmpvpypXKf0

outlaws 1980

Advertisements

xmas song of the day – “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy” | DAVID BOWIE & BING CROSBY | 1977 / 1982.

Happy Holidays!  Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show (TONIGHT!!; 12.25.2016) on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I wanted to present to you THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, or, 31 of my favorite 80s holiday musical treats.

stuck-holiday-show-promo-art

Thank you so much for reading this first year of my blog, especially the holiday treasures that comprised THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS.  Xmas has long not my favorite time of year, but these songs help get me through and then some every holiday season. 

The song for Day 31 of THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is my all-time favorite holiday song – “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy” by David Bowie and Bing Crosby, included in the 1977 holiday special, BING CROSBY’S MERRIE OLDE CHRISTMAS.

merrie-olde-xmas

I was 10 going on 11 for Xmas 1977, and it was a time where I wasn’t really into music (that would happen in 1979), and I don’t remember anything else about that Bing Crosby variety holiday show, but I’ll never forget the one thing I do remember – “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy.” 

It’s hard to believe now, but that famous duet almost never happened.  When the producers of the show asked David Bowie to sing “Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby, he said no.  David said, “I hate this song.  Is there something else I could sing?”  Of this news, one of the show’s songwriters, Ian Fraser said, “We didn’t quite know what to do.”

From there, Ian Fraser got together with the show’s other songwriter, Larry Grossman, and the show’s scriptwriter, Buz Kohan, and wrote “Peace On Earth” for David Bowie as a counterpoint piece to Bing’s version of “Little Drummer Boy.”

bowie-bing-bw

With less than an hour of rehearsal, Bowie and Bing performed the song, and it was magical.  It was also my first exposure to David Bowie (and my whole family’s, I believe; in 1977, we just had the one TV set in the house).  After the show’s taping, Bing said David Bowie was a “clean-cut kid and a real fine asset to the show.  He sings well, has a great voice and reads lines well.”  David later admitted that he only appeared on the show because “I just knew my mother liked him.”  David also performed his then-new hit, “Heroes,” on the show, but, for some reason, I don’t remember it.

peace-on-earth-7%22

For five years, “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy” was only available as a bootleg single, but in late November 1982, David’s label at the time, RCA Records, released an official single version of the holiday gem, replete with all the dialogue from the show.  By 1982, David Bowie’s relationship with RCA (his label since 1971’s HUNKY DORY album) was already seriously strained and he was not happy with the record label releasing that song.  He left the label soon thereafter. 

Despite David’s unhappiness about the release of “Peace On Earth / Little Drummer Boy” as a single, it performed very well, reaching No. 6 in Ireland and Norway, and No. 12 in Sweden.  In the U.K., it reached No. 3 and was certified Silver.

peace-on-earth-cd-single

In 1995, I was elated when retro label Oglio Records released the single version on their holiday compilation, THE EDGE OF CHRISTMAS, but also as a stand-alone CD single, with both the single version and the full-length version from the Bing Crosby special.  And, with it being a few years before the Interweb really took off, there was also a CD-ROM of the video from the 1977 show. 

BING CROSBY’S MERRIE OLDE CHRISTMAS was filmed on September 11, 1977.  Nearly five weeks after filming the special (and a month-and-a-half before the special aired), Bing Crosby sadly died of a heart attack at the age of 73.  And now, David Bowie’s gone too.  But, as I’ve been told before, I was lucky enough to be on the same planet as David Bowie for almost 50 years.  And that’s pretty damn cool.

“Peace on Earth, can it be / Years from now, perhaps we’ll see / See the day of glory / See the day when men of good will / Live in peace, live in peace again / Peace on Earth, can it be / Can it be…”

Peace on Earth – can it be?  I’d truly love to think so…

“It’s a pretty thing, isn’t it…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9kfdEyV3RQ

bowie-bing-1

xmas song of the day – “Winter Wonderland” | EURYTHMICS | 1987.

Happy Holidays!  Since it’s the first year of my blog, and since it’s the last year for my Annual Holiday Show on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I wanted to present to you THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, or, 31 of my favorite 80s holiday musical treats.

stuck-holiday-show-promo-art

The song for Day 5 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is “Winter Wonderland” by Eurythmics, from one of my all-time favorite Xmas albums, 1987’s A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS, which came about from an idea of super-producer Jimmy Iovine. 

Long before Jimmy Iovine was the co-founder of Interscope Records and Beats Electronic (with Dr. Dre), Jimmy was an engineer on such classic albums like Bruce Springsteen’s BORN TO RUN, DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN and THE RIVER, Meat Loaf’s BAT OUT OF HELL and John Lennon’ WALLS AND BRIDGES. 

Before 1987, Jimmy Iovine produced or co-produced such memorable albums  Patti Smith’s EASTER, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ DAMN THE TORPEDOES, Dire Straits’ MAKING MOVIES, BELLA DONNA by Stevie Nicks, ONCE UPON A TIME by Simple Minds and The Pretenders’ GET CLOSE.  He also supervised the music for the 1984 John Hughes classic, SIXTEEN CANDLES, and in 1988, he produced U2’s excellent double-album soundtrack to their rockumentary, RATTLE AND HUM, and supervised the music for the Bill Murray holiday film, SCROOGED.

For the first A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS album in 1987, Jimmy Iovine recruited many of the recording artists he worked with, like Bruce Springsteen, U2, The Pretenders and Stevie Nicks, along with Eurythmics, John Mellencamp, Sting, Run-D.M.C., Madonna, Bryan Adams, Alison Moyet and more – 15 songs in all.avsc-poster

In the wake of Band Aid, Live Aid, Farm Aid and “We Are The World,” Jimmy Iovine wanted to put together a Christmas album as a memorial to his dad, who passed away in 1985. 

The idea for A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS to benefit Special Olympics was idea of Jimmy Iovine’s wife, Vicki (herself a volunteer for Special Olympics), and that’s where the “special” in A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS is inspired from.  Mr. and Mrs. Iovine got some help organizing the album from extended Kennedy family member Bobby Shriver, and the founders of A&M Records, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.

Since the original 1987 A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS album, there have been nine other albums released in the series, through 2013.  And since 1987, the series has raised over $100 million dollars for Special Olympics.  Since 1991, A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS ranks as the 19th best-selling holiday album here in America, and has sold over four million copies since its release.

jimmy-iovine-n-friends

A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS Producer Jimmy Iovine (front center), surrounded (in no particular order) by U2, Annie Lennox, Sting, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Run-D.M.C.

The cover art for the albums was designed by pop and graffiti artist, Keith Haring, and the untitled image of a mother and child was chosen by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1987 as the cover of the first A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS album.  Keith Haring sadly passed away in early 1990, but that image has become synonymous with the album series, and also with the mission of the Special Olympics.

avsc

This wonderful version of “Winter Wonderland” by Eurythmics has been a longtime holiday favorite of mine, and it has made it onto most (if not all) of the playlists for my Annual Holiday Show.  Many versions of “Winter Wonderland” have been recorded since it was written in 1934, from Bing Crosby to Elvis Presley to Ozzy Osbourne, but this version truly stands out among the best.

To learn more about Special Olympics and the mission of A VERY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS, go to averyspecialchristmas.org.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xVLeW9UmjE

dave-n-annie-avsc