song of the day – “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” | UTOPIA | 1983.

To paraphrase from a movie I recently watched (yet again), the incredibly funny 1984 film, REVENGE OF THE NERDS, “I’m a singles chart nerd, and I’m pretty proud of it.” 

at40 80s

In the years leading up to adulthood, and for a few years after, I was a faithful listener of Casey Kasem’s AMERICAN TOP 40 program, and while I am a self-proclaimed singles chart nerd, I concede that, if there’s a song out there you love, and have loved for years, what position they reached on the singles chart (if they even reached it at all) doesn’t matter.  I think if Casey Kasem were here with us today, he might agree.  Still, all these years later, there are some songs out there whose peak chart positions surprise me.  One of those songs is “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” by Utopia.

feet don't fail me now

For years, Pennsylvania native Todd Rundgren had been going back and forth, releasing solo albums and albums with his band, Utopia.  As for his solo career, Todd is best known for his BILLBOARD Hot 100 hits, “I Saw The Light” (No. 16) and “Hello It’s Me” (No. 5, both from 1972), his original 1978 version of “Can We Still Be Friends” (No. 29; covered by Robert Palmer in 1979, and by many others since), and 1983’s fun “Bang The Drum All Day” (No. 63).

Todd Rundgren’s band, Utopia, started out as a Prog-Rock band in 1973, and had several incarnations over the years, releasing nine studio albums between 1974 and 1985.  Their biggest album, late 1979’s ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA, was their biggest, blending Rock, Disco and Prog-Rock, and gave the band their only Top 40 hit on the Hot 100, “Set Me Free,” which spent a week at its peak position of No. 27 in April 1980.

NERDY SIDE NOTE: A song Todd Rundgren wrote for Utopia’s 1977 album, OOPS!  WRONG PLANET – the last song on the album – called “Love Is The Answer,” was a single released from the album, but it was not a hit.  It did, however, end up being a Top 10 hit for Adult Contemporary favorites England Dan & John Ford Coley in May 1979, and it was among the 100 biggest U.S. hits of that year.utopia 1982 LP

From Utopia’s second self-titled album (and their second album released in 1982), there were two singles released from the album: “Hammer In My Heart” and “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now.”  With the album recorded just a year after MTV was born, both songs featured videos on a VHS collection called THE UTOPIA SAMPLER, which received a Grammy nomination in 1983 for Best Short Form Video.  Speaking of MTV, footage for the “Hammer In My Heart” video was recorded live at MTV’s official first birthday party, hosted by MTV VJ (and current Maine resident and weather enthusiast), Nina Blackwood.  That song reached No. 31 on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart.

feet videoThe cheeky video for the other single released from the UTOPIA album, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” featured the band members dressed up as different types of bugs who can’t move their feet.  The video kinda reminded me of videos The Cars would end up producing in the 80s, like 1984’s MTV Video Of The Year winner, “You Might Think” (which at one point features singer Ric Ocasek as a fly).  In an odd coincidence, Todd Rundgren took Ric Ocasek’s place as lead singer of The New Cars in 2005 (featuring original Cars members Elliot Easton and Greg Hawkes) for one album and a tour, which I unfortunately missed.

“Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” has always reminded me of a cross between the U.K. Pop band, Bucks Fizz (who had three No. 1 songs in the U.K. back in the early 80s) and XTC, which, in yet another coincidence, Todd Rundgren produced the brilliant XTC album, SKYLARKING, in 1986, the same year Utopia broke up.

Skylarking

On the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” debuted at No. 90 in early January 1983, but sadly, it was the legs, not the feet that failed “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” and it peaked at No. 82 a couple weeks later, staying there for three weeks.  It was the last time Utopia would see the Hot 100.

I was a bit late learning about “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” (it wasn’t until after I started STUCK IN THE 80s, my little 21-year 80s radio program on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), but every time I’ve heard it since, it’s never failed me.  I suppose maybe 20 years from now, if I hear this song and of course, want to dance to it, I might say, “Feet, don’t fail me now.” 

But, for the moment, I’ll proudly dance to this quirky and fun gem at home, because unlike the meaning of the word “utopia” (which means “no place” or an imagined place), here’s a good as place as any to dance, not to mention it’s a place where I don’t have to worry about taking anyone out on the dance floor on account of my mad dancing skillz (those who have seen me dance are laughing, because they know it’s true)…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytAi9yr7t1E

utopia

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song of the day – “What’s Love Got To Do With It” | TINA TURNER | 1984.

September 1, 1984 was a huge day for legendary R&B singer Tina Turner.  That was the day she celebrated her first and only No. 1 song on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”  For how she got there, we have to go back.

From 1960 to 1975, she and her husband Ike scored 20 Hot 100 hits, six of those reaching the Top 40, and their biggest hit being their soulful cover of the 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, “Proud Mary.”  Ike and Tina’s 1971 cover reached No. 4, just below the No. 2 original by CCR.

Ike Turner had a well-known cocaine problem, which not only affected his and Tina’s music career, but their marriage as well.  Tina left her abusive husband in 1976, and by 1978, Tina divorced Ike in both marriage and music.  Between 1977 and 1983, she performed solo on a number of variety shows, and also with artists like Rod Stewart, Kim Carnes, Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones.  And, at the insistence of David Bowie, she picked up a singles record deal with Capitol Records in 1983.

let's stay togetherIn November 1983, she released her cover of Al Green’s classic “Let’s Stay Together.”  The cover debuted on the Hot 100 in January 1984, became her first charting hit in eight years, and her first Top 40 hit since 1973.  “Let’s Stay Together” peaked at No. 26 in late March 1984, reached No. 3 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, and spent two weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.  It was also a Top 10 hit in the U.K., Belgium, Finland, Holland and New Zealand.

The success of “Let’s Stay Together” prompted Capitol to reconsider their deal with Tina, and offered her a three-album deal, asking for an album ASAFP.  That album (and next single) helped Tina become the incredible comeback story of 1984, maybe of the entire decade.

private dancer LP

The result was her fifth studio album, PRIVATE DANCER, which was released in late May 1984.  The second single from PRIVATE DANCER was released in advance of the album, on May 1, 1984: “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”

Written by Terry Britten of Manchester, England, and Graham Lyle of Scotland, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” was actually first offered to Cliff Richard (or, as I call him, the Elvis of the U.K.), but it never materialized.  It was then offered to Pittsburg R&B singer, Phyllis Hyman, who was interested, but the head of Arista Records, Clive Davis, for some reason wouldn’t allow her to do it.  From there, it was offered to Donna Summer, who had it for a couple of years but didn’t do anything with it, and just months before Tina recorded her version, the British Pop group Bucks Fizz were offered the song.  They did record the song but when Tina recorded her version first, their version was not released until the year 2000 (on a reissue of one of their albums).

what's love got to do with it

The cover art (outside of North America) for “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”

 

“What’s Love Got To Do With It” took less than three weeks after its release to debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, entering the chart at No. 92.  It reached the Top 40 in late June, and on this date (9.1) in 1984, it spent the first of its three weeks at No. 1.  The song stayed on the Hot 100 more than half a year, and nearly outlasted three Hot 100 singles from another act also enjoying a comeback that year – The Jacksons.  At the time, 44-year-old Tina Turner was the oldest female solo recording artist to reach No. 1 on the Hot 100 (that record is now held by Cher, with her 1999 dance hit, “Believe”).

It was a massive hit around the globe as well, reaching No. 1 in Australia and Canada, and the Top 10 in the U.K., Austria, Germany, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden and where Tina calls home today, Switzerland.

And the accolades didn’t stop there.  “What’s Love Got To Do With It” was the second-biggest U.S. single of 1984 (only behind Prince’s “When Doves Cry”), it received three Grammy Awards (including Record and Song Of The Year), an MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video, it inspired a 1993 biopic of the same name (partly based on her 1986 autobiography, I, TINA), and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012.

ETATS UNIS : Grammy Awards

Tina Turner, looking ecstatic at the 1985 Grammy Awards.

After “What’s Love Got To Do With It” reached No. 1, three more songs from PRIVATE DANCER reached the Top 40, two of them the Top 10.  From there, she scored eight more Top 40 hits between 1984 and 1993, three of those reaching the Top 10 as well.

For my 2011 Valentine’s show on STUCK IN THE 80s, my little 20-year-old 80s music program on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine, Tina’s hit inspired the title of the show: “What’s Love Got To Do With It – Non-Traditional Love Songs,” starting of course with her No. 1 classic.  The show featured songs like “What Is Love” by Howard Jones, “Love Is A Battlefield” by Pat Benatar, “Ever Fallen In Love” by The Buzzcocks, Joe Jackson’s “Fools In Love,” The Time’s “Jungle Love” and the Red Version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” the brilliant 1988 cover by the NYC Avant-Rock band, Swans.

These days, Tina Turner is now an official citizen of Switzerland, where she has lived for many years, has been married for three years to someone she was seeing for the 27 years prior to that, and she has occasionally referred to herself as a Buddhist-Baptist, though in an interview earlier this year, she said she considers herself a Buddhist.

Turner And Bowie

Tina Turner and David Bowie, 1985. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Though I’ve never seen her perform, I’ve always had a lot of respect for Tina Turner, and after divorcing Ike (who died in 2007), and especially after David Bowie indirectly helped her make music history, I feel like she’s really living the life she truly wants to live.  Tina, who turns 77 in November, has definitely earned it. 

As for today’s “song of the day,” when I think about it, the title “What’s Love Got To Do With It” is kind of a contradiction in terms.  I mean, I don’t know anyone who DOESN’T love that song.  So, in terms of the song and the remarkable Tina Turner herself, I’d say the answer to the question, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” is, well, “everything…”

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

tina in paris 1984

Tina Turner in Paris, 1984.