song of the day – “Abracadabra” | STEVE MILLER BAND | 1982.

colin hay strand 081617

Waiting for the real Colin Hay to begin, Rockland, Maine, 8.16.2017. He was, of course, fantastic and soulful.

Hey everyone!  Thanks so much for being patient with me, as I’ve taken an unexpected (but quite enjoyable) absence from the bloggy thing since the end of July.  There’s been work stuff, home stuff, I had a fun time attending concerts featuring Blondie, the 80s Retro Futura Tour (including Howard Jones, Modern English, Men Without Hats, Paul Young, Katrina of Katrina And The Waves, and The English Beat!), and most recently, seeing the wonderful Colin Hay in beautiful Rockland, Maine. 

I’ve also been spending a lot of quality time with the incredible and awesome Hope, my superfriend, sassy radio co-host and writing hero, which included a swim in the cold Atlantic Ocean here in Maine that changed me forever.  There’s a lot more to say, and I will, in a post coming soon that will be about Hope and that swim in the ocean and much more!  And Hope comes up again later in this post, so stay tuned!!

HopeyT and me

That’s the absolutely lovely HopeyT and me, Kettle Cove State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 9.2.2017!

When I started my tribute to my radio hero, Casey Kasem, back on June 1, school was in session and Summer was weeks away.  Well, it’s now September 9, 2017, school is back in session and Fall is less than two weeks away.  I’ve had fun bringing you this tribute to Casey (who passed away in June 2014 at the age of 82), and wanted to make sure (1) you all didn’t think I would hold out on the Number One song of this tribute, and (2) that I get this in ASAFP, because what’s a Top 40 countdown without a Number One song?

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Much like AMERICAN TOP 40, this post will be full of nerdy chart facts and then some, but first, I wanted to recap the songs I’ve posted in this series so far.  These songs (which include five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), are ranked at the positions they peaked at on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (with peak year), and though they do not represent a definitive Top 40 list for me, but I love all of them, and hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them!

40. CLONES (WE’RE ALL) – ALICE COOPER (1980)

39. SLIPPING AWAY – DAVE EDMUNDS (1983)

38. PROMISES IN THE DARK – PAT BENATAR (1981)

37. WHISPER TO A SCREAM (BIRDS FLY) – ICICLE WORKS (1984; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

36. SOMETIMES A FANTASY – BILLY JOEL (1980)

35. FAKE FRIENDS – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1983)

34. ME MYSELF AND I – DE LA SOUL (1989)

33. PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE) – U2 (1984)

32. VALLEY GIRL – FRANK & MOON ZAPPA (1982)

31. (GHOST) RIDERS IN THE SKY – THE OUTLAWS (1981)

30. LIES – THOMPSON TWINS (1983)

29. TURN UP THE RADIO – AUTOGRAPH (1985; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

28. POINT OF NO RETURN – NU SHOOZ (1986)

27. THE RIGHT THING – SIMPLY RED (1987)

26. NOT JUST ANOTHER GIRL – IVAN NEVILLE (1988)

25. TAKE ME WITH YOU – PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION featuring APOLLONIA (1985)

24. ONE WAY OR ANOTHER – BLONDIE (1979)

23. YOU CAN CALL ME AL – PAUL SIMON (1986 / 1987)

22. AIN’T NOBODY – RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN (1983)

21. FOOL IN THE RAIN – LED ZEPPELIN (1980)

20. OUR LIPS ARE SEALED – THE GO-GO’S (1982)

19. PUSH IT – SALT-N-PEPA (1988)

18. LET ME TICKLE YOUR FANCY – JERMAINE JACKSON with DEVO (1982)

17. YOU ARE THE GIRL – THE CARS (1987)

16. HOLIDAY – MADONNA (1984)

15. ONE OF THE LIVING – TINA TURNER (1985)

14. DIGGING YOUR SCENE – THE BLOW MONKEYS (1986; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

13. TARZAN BOY – BALTIMORA (1986)

12. WHAT’S GOING ON – CYNDI LAUPER (1987)

11. EDGE OF SEVENTEEN – STEVEIE NICKS (1982)

10. RELAX – FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (1985)

09. THE ONE I LOVE – R.E.M. (1987)

08. LET THE MUSIC PLAY – SHANNON (1984)

07. WHAT I AM – EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS (1989)

06. INFATUATION – ROD STEWART (1984)

05. WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’ – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983)

04. HEART AND SOUL – T’PAU (1987; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

03. LOVE SHACK – THE B-52’S (1989)

02. DANCING IN THE DARK – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1984)

Throughout this series, I’ve been mentioned how many songs peaked at each position between 1979 and 1989.  It’s only fitting that songs which reached No. 1 would have the highest number of songs hitting the apex of the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  For this post, I am only counting the songs that reached No. 1 between January 1980 and December 1989, and for that 80s time period, 232 songs went all the way to No. 1.  Let’s get nerdy now (if you’re not already there), with some chart feats about No. 1 songs during the 80s and the BILLBOARD Hot 100:

  • FOUR (REAL) ONE-HIT WONDERS reached No. 1 during the 80s – Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”), the second-chance single, “When I’m With You” by Sheriff, Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice Theme,” and Vangelis (“Chariots Of Fire (Titles)”), though the composer did reach the chart separately twice in the early 80s as part of the duo Jon & Vangelis, with Jon Anderson of Yes.

miami vice theme

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (27); MOST NO. 1 SONGS FROM ONE ALBUM (5); MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (9) – Michael Jackson.  The King Of Pop reached No. 1 in the 80s with “Rock With You” (1980; 4 weeks at No. 1), “Billie Jean” (1983; 7 weeks), “Beat It” (1983; 3 weeks), “Say Say Say,” with Paul McCartney (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks), “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” with Siedah Garrett (1987; 1 week), “Bad” (1987; 2 weeks), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1988; 1 week), “Man In The Mirror” (1988; 2 weeks); “Dirty Diana” (1988; 1 week).beat it
  • MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (if you’re NOT Michael Jackson): Madonna (7), Phil Collins (7 solo hits), Whitney Houston (7), George Michael (6 solo hits, which includes “Careless Whisper”), Daryl Hall & John Oates (5), Lionel Richie (5).

crazy 4 U

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT ON THE HOT 100 – 40 – “Red Red Wine” – UB40. It spent 25 weeks on the Hot 100, including a week at No. 1 in 1988, and had charted for 15 weeks in its first chart run in 1984.

red red wine

  • MOST CONFIGURATIONS AT NO. 1 – PAUL McCARTNEY, with Wings (“Coming Up (Live At Glasgow),” 1980), with Stevie Wonder (“Ebony And Ivory,” 1982), and with Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say,” 1983 / 1984).

coming up

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT IN THE TOP 10 OF THE HOT 100 (15) – “Physical – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982), and “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982).  SUPER NERDY FUN FACT: the song which spent the most weeks in the Top 10 in the 80s didn’t even reach No. 1 – “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp spent 16 weeks in the Top 10, with four of those weeks in the runner-up spot.

survivor

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (10) – “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (1981 / 1982).  While it’s more commonplace on the Hot 100 these days, the biggest song of the 1980s would be the only song to spend at least 10 weeks at No. 1 on the chart for next 10 years.  In 1992, Boyz II Men spent a then-record 13 weeks at No. 1 with “End Of The Road.”  Two No. 1 songs later, Whitney Houston would break that record with “I Will Always Love You,” which spent its 14th and final week on top in late February 1993.  The current record is 16 weeks at No. 1.

physical

In the most recent tabulation of the Greatest Of All Time Hot 100 songs for BILLBOARD’s legendary singles chart, many songs from the 80s were represented, and are currently ranked as follows:

08. “Physical” – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 1)

15. “Bette Davis Eyes” – KIM CARNES (1981; 9 weeks)

16. “Endless Love” – DIANA ROSS & LIONEL RICHIE (1981; 9 weeks)

24. “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982; 6 weeks)

29. “Every Breath You Take” – THE POLICE (1983; 8 weeks)

31. “Flashdance…What A Feeling” – IRENE CARA (1983; 6 weeks)

40. “Another One Bites The Dust” – QUEEN (1980; 3 weeks)

41. “Say Say Say” – PAUL McCARTNEY & MICHAEL JACKSON (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks)

54. “Call Me” – BLONDIE (1980; 6 weeks)

57. “Lady” – KENNY ROGERS (1980; 6 weeks)

63. “Centerfold” – THE J. GEILS BAND (1982; 6 weeks)

64. “(Just Like) Starting Over” – JOHN LENNON (1980 / 1981; 5 weeks)

68. “I Love Rock ’N Roll” – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1982; 7 weeks)

73. “Ebony And Ivory” – PAUL McCARTNEY & STEVIE WONDER (1982; 7 weeks)

75. “That’s What Friends Are For” – DIONNE & FRIENDS (1986; 4 weeks)

77. “Upside Down” – DIANA ROSS (1980; 4 weeks)

83. “Billie Jean” – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983; 7 weeks)

86. “Abracadabra” – THE STEVE MILLER BAND (1982; 2 weeks)

89. “Say You, Say Me” – LIONEL RICHIE (1985 / 1986; 4 weeks)

91. “All Night Long (All Night)” – LIONEL RICHIE (1983; 4 weeks)

95. “Waiting For A Girl Like You” – FOREIGNER (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 2; still tied for a record for spending the most weeks peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100)

98. “Hurts So Good” – JOHN MELLENCAMP (1982; 4 weeks at No. 2)

So, for now, the 80s represent more than a fifth of the greatest hits to grace the BILLBOARD HOT 100.  Pretty damn cool.  I know it won’t always be like that, and I always wonder why some huge hits like Prince’s “When Doves Cry” (No. 1 for 1984) or Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” (No. 2 for 1980) aren’t up there, but songs these days tend to stay atop the Hot 100 (and the chart as a whole) a lot longer than they did back in the day, but honestly, I’m grateful for the songs that are still there. 

When I was preparing for this hefty blog post (prolly my second-longest, save for the Prince tribute post in April 2016), I was going through the list of No. 1 songs, and there are some songs I’ve already featured as a “song of the day” (Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” comes to mind, and has often as of late), and there are many others I love. 

TFF

U2_des_7But, I concede that there are some real stinkers in there, too: Will To Power’s awful covers medley of “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Freebird” (subtitled “Freebaby,” which is just heinous)?!  How in THE HELL did that get to go to No. 1 and “I Don’t Want Your Love” by Duran Duran stops at No. 4, and U2’s “Desire” stops at No. 3?!  For the love of all things holy!  And though I admit enjoying the movie MANNEQUIN, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship?!  Are you kidding me?!  Even Grace Slick denounced that piece of shit.  While the go-to “worst song of the 80s” award is usually 1985’s “We Built This City,” I can tolerate that way more over “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”  Yes, I’m THAT guy.

If I was going for my absolute favorite No. 1 song of the 80s, there’s no competition.  It’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds.  It’s also my all-time favorite song.  But it’s a post I want to save for another time.  So, I thought it would be fun to bring in Hope, my writing hero, who, unlike yours truly, doesn’t obsess and write about nerdy chart facts or Top 40 hits, let alone ones that hit No. 1.  I thought it would be cool to have her choose the song for this post.

don't you

On August 11, 2017, Hope was kind enough to send me her list of her picks for No. 1 songs from the 80s, many of which have been already mentioned in this post!  One of those songs, and a song that is almost universally loved (like “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, or the aforementioned Tears For Fears, Prince and Simple Minds gems) is “Abracadabra” by The Steve Miller Band.abracadabra7

Hope had included “Abracadabra” under the category of “Situational” No. 1 songs.  For Hope, “Abracadabra” was popular during the Summer after her high school graduation (“the glamorous Summer in The Hamptons!”), and she loves the line, “black panties with an angel’s face.”  Who wouldn’t love that line?!  It’s awesome (much like Hope herself)!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Steve Miller formed his Psychedelic Rock / Blues Rock band in San Francisco back in 1966.  Since his first two albums were released in 1968, through to his 1988 Jazz album, BORN 2 B BLUE, Steve Miller had been on Capitol Records, and he had some huge albums in the 70s. 

heart like a wheel

After 1981’s CIRCLE OF LOVE album (with the sweet Top 40 hit and criminally-forgotten gem, “Heart Like A Wheel”) failed to become his fourth consecutive platinum album here in America (though it was certified Gold), Steve was undeterred, got to work, and released the ABRACADABRA album in mid-June 1982.

abracadabra LP

Of the album, ROLLING STONE said, “The essence of good magic is deception, and with the release of this album, Steve Miller has earned the right to twirl his wand and shout, ‘Abracadabra!’”

Well, Steve thought so too, but Capitol wasn’t so sure.  The song inspired by Diana Ross (whom Steve met on a Pop music TV show in the 60s) told THE HOWARD STERN SHOW in 2016 that Capitol Records didn’t see a hit with the song “Abracadabra”:

“Capitol didn’t believe in [“Abracadabra”] and didn’t want to release it.  I had a different deal with Phonogram in Europe.  When it came out in Europe, I cancelled my American tour because it was Number One everywhere in the world, except the States.”  Once again, the record label got it wrong.

Well, after seeing the success of “Abracadabra” overseas, Capitol gave in and released it in the U.S., a month before the ABRACADABRA album was released.  “Abracadabra” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late May 1982 at No. 75, and took just four weeks to debut within the Top 40. 

The next few weeks were a steady climb, and by late July 1982, “Abracadabra” had become Steve Miller’s first Top 10 hit in five years, to the month.  With John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” camped out at No. 2, and Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” camped out at No. 1, “Abracadabra” was stuck at No. 3 for four weeks before it could work its magic on reaching No. 1. 

In early September 1982, after 15 weeks on the chart, “Abracadabra” finally hit No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, giving Steve Miller his third No. 1 U.S. single overall, and his first No. 1 single since 1976’s “Rock’n Me” spent a week on top.  The No. 1 run of “Abracadabra” was just as quick as “Rock’n Me,” and his first No. 1 song, 1974’s “The Joker,” which also spent a lone week at No. 1.

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The Steve Miller Band, 1982.

The following week, Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” snuck into the No. 1 position when no one was looking and stayed there for two weeks.  “Abracadabra” dropped to No. 3 (behind previous No. 1, “Eye Of The Tiger”).  But, in a magical chart feat, “Abracadabra” moved back up to No. 2 the next week, and by the end of September, “Abracadabra” reclaimed the No. 1 spot for one more week, before John Mellencamp’s little ditty about “Jack And Diane” started its four-week run at No. 1.  “Abracadabra” stayed on the Hot 100 until mid-Novemer 1982, and left the chart after nearly half a year.  It finished the year at No. 9 here in America. 

Around the globe, “Abracadabra” worked its magic on the singles charts of many countries, reaching No. 1 in Switzerland (six weeks), Sweden (four weeks), Australia and Canada (two weeks), and Austria, No. 2 in the U.K., Germany and Ireland, No. 4 in Norway, No. 8 in New Zealand, and No. 26 in the Netherlands.

“Abracadabra” was the last song The Steve Miller Band placed inside of the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, though they charted several more times through 1993, including the brilliant but oddly-underrated “I Want To Make The World Turn Around” from 1986.

i want to make the world turn around

Steve Miller continues to tour today, and in 2016, he was inducted as a solo artist into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, where he had some not so nice things to say about the whole thing, calling the Hall a “private boys’ club full of fucking gangsters and crooks,” and vowing to make it better. 

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The Steve Miller Band, 2015.

He suggested taking the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame nominating committee, replace every one of them and start over.  I hope it works out, because Devo, from Akron, Ohio (less than an hour south of Cleveland, where the Hall is based), should have been inducted years ago, much like the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, who has taken on Blues, Standards, Folk, Dance and Country music in the past 15 years, not to mention writing a book, winning a Tony Award and co-founding the True Colors Fund, which works to end homelessness among LGBT youth, and even testified before Maine Senator Susan Collins in 2015 about this very subject. 

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This photo of Steve at the 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony speaks volumes, and not favorably for the Hall…

As for me and Hope and many others for “Abracadabra,” it’s one of those infectious songs that deserved to go to No. 1, and 35 years later, it still holds up.  At least the five-minute, eleven-second album version.  When the single was released, I bought it, but was instantly pissed it wasn’t the long version!  Sure, it’s only a minute and change difference, but if you hear the single version vs. the album version, you can tell the single version is a bit sped up, and the kick-ass instrumental that closes out the rest of the song isn’t there.  That’s even why I chose the video link below.  It’s not a link to the actual video, but to the album version.  You know, all these years later, I’m still impressed that sped up, edited single version got the song to No. 1.  Maybe that was magic too.

Speaking of magic, Hope inspired me recently to start training for a 5K using the Couch To 5K app (C25K); we’re both training for it, and finishing Week 5 of 8 this weekend!  Hope and I haven’t run a proper 5K in our adult lives, and the last time I ran the equivalent of a 5K was in high school during Cross Country, where I lettered my senior year.  Holy cats, that was 33 years ago! 

run ron run

Post-run workout, 9.7.2017! (With a kick-ass playlist by DJ HopeyT to keep me going!)

But, you know what?  Maybe it’s not magic after all that’s got us training for our first 5K ever – and in our early 50s!  Maybe you just need to believe.  Just like Steve Miller believed he had a hit with “Abracadabra,” even as his longtime record label disagreed – and he was right!  It’s one of THE BEST songs of the 80s and of all-time.  And I believe getting through this 5K (and other aspects of my life) will happen with belief over magic, though I have to say, when it happens, it will feel pretty damn magical and then some…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKCV8gzSlYw

abacadabra poster

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song of the day #2 – “Relax” | FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD | 1984 / 1985.

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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 (and now through July), I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  Sometime here in July, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

HOORAY!  We’ve finally reached the Top 10!  Woo-hoo!  When Casey Kasem got to this point of an American Top 40 countdown, he would usually say, “We’re headed into the home stretch now!  And on we go!”

Wow, in my research for this series, no chart position so far has had nearly 90 songs reach a certain position between 1979 and 1989…until now.  Nearly 90 songs set up camp at the No. 10 position during that time, some stays as short as one week (like “Borderline” by Madonna, “Hysteria” by Def Leppard and “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” by Cyndi Lauper), or as many as six weeks (“Muscles” by Diana Ross). 

borderline

There were only about a baker’s dozen and a half of women who peaked at No. 10 during that time, like Kim Carnes, Pat Benatar, (real) one-hit wonder Regina (with the Madonna-inspired “Baby Love”), Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, Cher, Donna Summer, Exposé, and the aforementioned Madonna and Diana Ross (the latter of which reached No. 10 twice).

It was pretty much a boys club for the rest of the songs that reached No. 10 on the Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989, including songs by David Bowie, Culture Club, Pet Shop Boys, Asia, Wham!, Steely Dan, ELO, Golden Earring, Prince, Phil Collins, Duran Duran and Stevie Wonder, and for some, one No. 10 song wasn’t enough.  The Police had two No. 10 hits, Heart had two, plus the Little River Band had three, as did Michael Jackson and Billy Joel.  And Kool & The Gang had four No. 10 hits – “Get Down On It,” “Misled,” “Stone Love” and “Victory.”

get down on it

For me, though, there was one No. 10 hit that stuck out more than any other.  And, as a singles chart nerd, it’s a big one.  It’s also what I call a “second-chance single,” and that historic single is “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Formed in Liverpool, England in 1980, Frankie Goes To Hollywood was a five-man  New Wave / Dance-Pop band who was a thorn in the BBC’s side (the British Broadcasting Corporation, that is) in 1984, with their debut single, “Relax.”  I’ll come back to that. 

FGTH 2

Producer and ZTT Records co-founder, Trevor Horn, saw Frankie Goes To Hollywood perform on a television show called THE TUBE, when an early version of “Relax” was played.  He thought it was “more a jingle than a song,” and he wanted to “fix it up” in his own way. 

Another co-founder of ZTT, Paul Morley, had a great campaign lined up for Frankie Goes To Hollywood: “a strategic assault on pop.”  This was a brilliant marketing move.  His plan was to also tackle certain a trilogy of themes in the band’s single releases – sex, war, and religion.  “Relax” was first, followed by “Two Tribes” (about the Cold War), and “The Power Of Love” (a video which features the birth of Christ).

Trevor Horn and especially Paul Morley were really going for the shock value when it came to Frankie Goes To Hollywood.  They released a series of provocative advertisements introducing Frankie to the U.K., and one advertisement even said, “Frankie Goes To Hollywood are coming…making Duran Duran lick the shit off their shoes…”  Wow. 

relax ad

One of several provocative ads ZTT released for Frankie Goes To Hollywood and “Relax.”

When “Relax” finally reached the U.K. singles chart in November 1983, it wasn’t really a big deal.  But, when Frankie performed “Relax” on the BBC flagship television show, TOP OF THE POPS, people went nuts.  The following week, it soared to No. 6 on the U.K. singles chart. 

relax TOTP

Frankie’s performance of “Relax” on Top Of The Pops.

About a week later, BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Read expressed his offense towards the cover art for “Relax” and especially these lyrics – “Relax, don’t do it / When you want to suck it, do it / Relax, don’t do it / When you want to come…”, and he announced his refusal to play the record.  Unbeknownst to him at the time, the BBC had already decided it couldn’t be played on the BBC anyway. 

relax UK

A couple of days later, the BBC officially banned the single from its airwaves, though radio heroes – like the brilliant John Peel – continued to play it throughout 1984.  Don’t people know when you ban a record, it only increases its popularity?!  And that’s what happened with “Relax.”  It reached No. 1 by late January 1984 and stayed on top for 5 weeks.  Apart from “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid, it was the biggest-selling single of the year in the U.K.

Since the BBC ban also applied to TOP OF THE POPS, which, like SOLID GOLD here in the U.S., did a countdown of the country’s biggest hits during the show.  When “Relax” was No. 1, all they did was put up a picture of the band during its big No. 1 announcement.  For five weeks.  Boo.

31 inches

If “Relax” going to No. 1 didn’t piss off the BBC enough, “Relax” took its time falling down the U.K. singles chart.  And by the time the Cold War Classic “Two Tribes” had started its nine-week run at No. 1 in June 1984, “Relax” was right back behind it at No. 2.  Hot damn.

“Relax” remained on the U.K. Top 75 singles chart for 48 consecutive weeks, and returned in February 1985 for another four, giving “Relax” an entire calendar year on the U.K. singles chart.  Pretty impressive.  The BBC ban on “Relax” proved to be a huge embarrassment, and eventually the ban was lifted sometime during 1984, but the damage was done, and Frankie and ZTT prevailed. 

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Speaking of embarrassments, I was sometimes embarrassed about how the U.S. didn’t pick up on some huge U.K. singles, and they didn’t do much here, if they were released at all.  Back in the early 00s, on my STUCK IN THE 80s radio show, I did a show called U.K. 1, U.S. O, highlighting songs that reached No. 1 in the U.K. but did nothing here.  Featured on the show were “Ashes To Ashes” by David Bowie, “Pipes Of Peace” by Paul McCartney (relegated to a B-side here), and songs by The Jam and The Flying Pickets, among others.  I think “Two Tribes” was also on the playlist.

Well, “Relax” eventually made its way to American shores and debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 early April 1984 at No. 84.  And, similar to the initial U.K. release, it received little fanfare here, maybe because radio stations had heard all about the song’s controversy in the U.K. and thought it was too obscene to play.  Irregardless, it spent a week at No. 67 in early May 1984, and fell off the chart after just seven weeks.

relax US

My original copy of the “Relax” 12″ single, purchased in July 1984, many months before it became a big hit here in America.

Somewhere along the line, I caught wind of “Relax,” and in a rare move, bought the 12” single (sans fancy cover art) in July 1984 BEFORE it was a radio hit here in America.  And I loved it from the start, and kept wondering, “Why exactly wasn’t this a huge hit here?”

pleasuredome

In late October 1984, just nine days before the release of the band’s brilliant double-album debut, WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME, “Two Tribes” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 79, on its way to a respectable No. 43 peak in mid-December 1984.  I will forever credit “Two Tribes” as the song that re-ignited interest in “Relax” here in America.

two tribes

And “Two Tribes” was still on the chart in mid-January 1985 when “Relax” made its re-entry onto the Hot 100.  In only its third week back, “Relax” debuted in the Top 40, and rose to No. 10 for a quick two weeks in March 1985.  It fell out of the Hot 100 by mid-May 1985 after a combined total of 23 weeks on the chart. 

Outside of North America between 1983 and 1985, “Relax” was one of the biggest hits of the decade.  It reached No. 1 in the aforementioned U.K., plus Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand, and the Top 10 in at least 11 other countries.

“Relax” has been featured in a ton of films and TV shows for more than 30 years, including POLICE ACADEMY, BODY DOUBLE, MIAMI VICE, GOTCHA!, ROCK STAR, ZOOLANDER and ZOOLANDER 2, THE PROPOSAL, CALIFORNICATION, and 2017’s T2 TRAINSPOTTING.

t2header

A number of covers of “Relax” have been released over the years as well, including “Weird Al” Yankovic, Richard Cheese, The Dandy Warhols, Germany’s Tech-Death Metal band Atrocity, and most recently, a brilliant cover by Blondie from their incredible 2014 album, GHOSTS OF DOWNLOAD, which includes a clever sample of the original within their cover.  I love it when artists do that.

In 1987, Frankie Goes To Hollywood ended up disbanding after just seven singles and two albums (though, somehow they manage to have 11 compilation albums), but honestly, it sure wouldn’t have been the 80s without them…

frankie says relax

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCp2h5jslKY

FGTH

song of the day – “Push It” (Remix) | SALT-N-PEPA | 1988.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June (and now through July), I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  Sometime here in July, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

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

The line between male and female Rap and Hip Hop singers and musicians in 2017 is much more unified than it was 30 years ago.  And current female Rappers and Hip Hopsters like Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Kim, M.I.A., Eve, Lauren Hill and Alicia Keys prolly wouldn’t have had the success they have now if it hadn’t been for three women out of Queens, NYC – Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton and Deidra “Spinderella” Roper, better known to the world and then some as Salt-N-Pepa.

Salt-N-Papa-SNP-Logo

Formed in 1985, Salt-N-Pepa came onto the music scene when – despite success by The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., Kurtis Blow and Blondie’s “Rapture,” to name a few – a lot of folks in the music industry weren’t entirely convinced Rap was here to stay, which is why Rappers during this time signed on to independent record labels, as opposed to the big labels.

hot cool vicious

Salt-N-Pepa recorded and released their first album, HOT, COOL & VICIOUS (on the independent Next Plateau Records label) in 1986.  The first two singles from the album were minor hits on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, while the third single, “Tramp,” made its way to No. 21 in 1987.

tramp

Then something unusual – but not uncommon in chart world – happened.  Thanks to a remix by a San Francisco DJ named Cameron Paul, the B-side of “Tramp” eventually became the A-side.

The original version of “Push It” was in fact the B-side of “Tramp,” and once “Push It” was remixed, a push was made to have its own release; a single which gave Salt-N-Pepa the “push” it needed.

remix

“Push It” debuted at No. 77 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late November 1987, the week Billy Idol’s now-forgotten “live” version of the Tommy James classic, “Mony Mony,” spent a week on top, and in turn replacing another Tommy James cover, Tiffany’s Bubblegum Pop version of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” at No. 1 (or, in other words, creamy chart nerdiness for yours truly).

push it

One day after Xmas 1987 (and the last Hot 100 chart of the year), “Push It” had reached the Top 40 at No. 40.  A good holiday for the trio, I’m sure.  In mid-February 1988, “Push It” had pushed its way to a No. 19 peak for one week, and departed from the Top 40 a month later.

NERDY FUN FACT: The Kinks’ Ray Davies got a songwriting credit for “Push It,” as Salt-N-Pepa reworked a line from “You Really Got Me”: “Boy, you really got me goin’ / You got me so / I don’t know what I’m doin’…”  (Salt-N-Pepa used three other samples for “Push It,” including The Time’s 1985 hit, “The Bird.”)

push it music


By early April 1988, “Push It” was certified Gold here in the U.S., and left the Hot 100 in mid-May 1988 after 25 weeks.  It also reached No. 18 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and No. 28 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.

Around the globe, radio stations and fans pushed “Push It” real good, and “Push It” reached No. 1 in Belgium and the Netherlands, No. 2 in Canada, New Zealand and Sweden, No. 3 in Australia, No. 4 in Norway, No. 6 in Ireland, Spain and Switzerland, and No. 9 in Austria and Germany.  Over in the U.K., “Push It” originally peaked at No. 41 (with “Tramp”), but after Salt-N-Pepa performed “Push It” at Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday concert, it shot up to No. 2 in the Summer of 1988.

mandela 70th

With the success of the remixed version of “Push It,” HOT, COOL & VICIOUS added the remix as the album’s opening track, and it pushed sales of the album to Platinum status.  In doing so, it became the first album by a female Rap act (solo OR group) to reach Gold or Platinum here in America.

“Push It” was nominated for a Grammy Award, and on ROLLING STONE’s list of the 500 GREATEST SONGS OF ALL TIME, it ranked at No. 446.  Over the years, “Push It” has itself been covered and sampled many times, from the likes of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Gorillaz, Pitbull, and has been featured in a mashup with The Stooges’ “No Fun,” which I now have to hear.

Salt-N-Pepa saw their biggest success in the 1990s, with songs like “Let’s Talk About Sex” and the huge Top 5 hits, “Shoop” and “Whatta Man” with En Vogue, the latter of which is their biggest hit ever in their U.S. homeland.  “Shoop” got a big boost in 2016, when it was featured in a funny scene during the kick-ass superhero film, DEADPOOL (released on my birthday in February 2016).

deadpool_2

Salt-N-Pepa are still together today, and currently appear on the bill for the popular “I LOVE THE 90s” tour, which is still going on through most of the rest of 2017 (and which made a stop in Bangor, Maine in 2016; my co-workers attended the show and would not stop singing “Shoop”).

i love the 90s

You know, there have been times over the past 30 years that I’ve considered “Push It” to be a part-time New Wave song?  It’s the keyboards that do it, which are most prominent in the beginning and especially at the end of the song.  New Wave-worthy or not, “Push It” has always been a favorite of mine, and it’s one of those rare times where this B-side baby became an A-side classic, and I’m grateful it was pushed real good to get there…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCadcBR95oU

salt-n-pepa

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

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014 (three years ago today), Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

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

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

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

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

long distance dedication 6.29.14

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

pollinator

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

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

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

parallel lines

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

heart of glass

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

sunday girl

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

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

blondie-1

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

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

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

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

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

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

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

chris debbie clem 2013

Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Clem Burke, 2013.

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

blondie wkrp 1

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

blondie wkrp 2

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

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

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

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

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

one way or another

  

song of the day – “(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

song of the day – “Slipping Away” | DAVE EDMUNDS | 1983.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend.  Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day.  For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet.  And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).american-top-40-casey-kasem

In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June, I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  On June 30, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1. 

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

In researching for this blog post, I found a lot more songs from the 80s that peaked at No. 39 than expected, at least 30.  There were some great ones, like “Atomic” by Blondie, “I Don’t Care Anymore” by Phil Collins, “In The Mood” by Robert Plant,” “Looking For A Stranger” by Pat Benatar, “My Town” by the Michael Stanley Band, “Skin Trade” by Duran Duran, “Tomorrow People” by Ziggy Marley, “(What) In The Name Of Love” by Naked Eyes, “Second Nature” by Dan Hartman, “Who’s Making Love” by The Blues Brothers, Bon Jovi’s first hit, “Runaway,” ELO’s sadly-forgotten “Last Train To London,” the gorgeous “Wake Up (Next To You)” by Graham Parker And The Shot, and six (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s.

atomic

I also found some songs I had forgotten about, like “Don’t Let Him Know” by Prism and “New Romance (It’s A Mystery)” by Spider, and some stinkers among the bunch, including “Memory” by Barry Manilow, “Sartorial Eloquence” by Elton John (sorry Elton, with a song title like that, it was bound not to work out), and the “WTF was I thinking with this song” song by Mick Jagger, “Let’s Work.”  Downright awful.  Don’t watch the video – that’s four minutes you’re not getting back.

wake up next to you

I nearly chose “Wake Up (Next To You)” as my selection for a song that peaked at No. 39 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, but I wanted to choose instead a gem from the sensationally-talented Welsh singer / songwriter / guitarist / über-producer, Dave Edmunds.

i hear you knockingBorn in Cardiff, Wales, Dave Edmunds first got his big break with a band called Love Sculpture, and in 1968, they reached No. 5 on the U.K. singles chart with a song called “Sabre Dance.”  Two years later, he had himself a huge international solo hit called “I Hear You Knocking,” which spent six weeks at No. 1 in the U.K., reached No. 3 in Canada and New Zealand, and No. 4 in the U.S. and Australia.  Dave’s version was actually a cover of a 1955 hit by R&B singer Smiley Lewis, and then covered by the legendary Fats Domino in 1961.  It’s also been covered many times over the decades, including versions by Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams.

repeat when necessaryThrough the end of the 1970s, Dave Edmunds picked up another three Top 10 U.K. hits, including Silver-Certified “Girls Talk,” written by Elvis Costello and appearing on his 1979 album, REPEAT WHEN NECESSARY (on Led Zeppelin’s SWAN SONG label). 

NERDY FUN FACTS: Huey Lewis appears on that same 1979 Dave Edmunds album, playing harmonica on a song he wrote called “Bad Is Bad,” four years before it would appear on Huey’s own monster album with The News, SPORTS.  And a song called “Queen Of Hearts” was also on the album, a No. 11 U.K. hit for Dave Edmunds that would become a big global hit for New Jersey Country singer, Juice Newton, in 1981.

bad is bad

Yepper, that’s Huey Lewis’ name and song on Led Zeppelin’s label, years before Huey became a star in his own right…

In addition to being a successful singer, songwriter and musician, Dave Edmunds was also a popular producer for other artists, including producing several albums by The Stray Cats, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, his side project with Nick Lowe, Rockpile, and k.d. lang’s second album, ANGEL WITH A LARIAT.

In all the years Dave Edmunds produced his own albums and the works of other artists, when it came time to work on his own 1983 album, INFORMATION, Dave did something he had never done before – he collaborated with another producer, in this case, Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra.

information

Jeff Lynne would go on to produce two songs on the album – the title track, and the album’s first single, “Slipping Away,” which Jeff Lynne also wrote.  “Slipping Away” entered the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 93 in mid-May 1983.  I confess I didn’t know much about Dave Edmunds when this song came out, but I loved the updated twangy sound. 

slipping away

With the help of airplay on the relatively new MTV, “Slipping Away” inched its way up the Hot 100, reaching its peak position of No. 39 nearly three months after debuting on the chart.  Four weeks after reaching the Top 40, “Slipping Away” slipped its way out of the Hot 100.  It’s his last Top 40 hit to date. 

on guitar

Dave Edmunds, now 73, released two albums in recent years, one in 2013 called …AGAIN (featuring recordings from the 90s and four new songs), and in 2015 (ON GUITAR…RAGS & CLASSICS).

It’s his twangy, Jeff Lynne-penned and produced No. 39 hit, though, that caught my ear, which introduced me to a music legend, and is a song that has never slipped away from me since, and won’t…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFETrcH1Dks

dave edmunds

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).

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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.

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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