song of the day – “Love Shack” | THE B-52’s | 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 (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!”

Casey Kasem used to also say, “As the numbers get smaller, the hits get bigger.”  And so does the number of songs that reached these “smaller” positions.  Between 1979 and 1989, more than 110 songs peaked at No. 3, and many artists stayed there more than once, including Bobby Brown, El DeBarge (solo and with DeBarge), Duran Duran, Genesis, The Jets, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis & The News, Richard Marx, Olivia Newton-John, The Pointer Sisters, The Police (Sting also had a No. 3 solo hit), Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand, Styx, Wham! and Donna Summer.  Chicago reached the No. 3 positions four times between 1979 and 1989.

hungry like the wolf

1988 was a popular year for No. 3 hits, when 17 songs reached that position, including songs by Taylor Dayne, Samantha Fox, Debbie Gibson, the “comeback” hit for Hall & Oates (“Everything Your Heart Desires”), Breathe, Anita Baker, Information Society, INXS, U2 and (real) one-hit wonder Patrick Swayze (from DIRTY DANCING). 

new sensation

No. 3 hits also included the first solo by David Lee Roth (his cover of The Beach Boys’ “California Girls”), as well as the first Van Halen hit without him, “Why Can’t This Be Love.”  There were also big No. 3 hits for Simple Minds, Belinda Carlisle, The Cars, Neneh Cherry, Charlie Daniels Band, Chris de Burgh, Earth, Wind & Fire, Corey Hart, Don Henley, Chaka Khan, Love & Rockets, Men At Work, Men Without Hats, Nu Shooz, Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The S.O.S. Band, The Stray Cats, Tears For Fears, Thompson Twins, Madonna and the last Top 40 hit for the late, great Marvin Gaye (“Sexual Healing”).

sexual healing

Love was a constant theme among the No. 3 hits, and was featured in the title of 15 songs, and implied in many others.  One of the 15 hits with the “Love” connection (sorry, couldn’t be helped) was one of two No. 3 hits in a row for The B-52’s – “Love Shack.”

One of the 80s’ biggest success stories – some would say one of the biggest comebacks – belonged to Athens, GA’s New Wave / Alt-Rock / Alt-Dance legends, The B-52’s.  By 1989, The B-52’s had already released four albums and two EPs, and had reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 three times – “Rock Lobster” (No. 56, 1980), “Private Idaho” (No. 74, 1980) and “Legal Tender” (No. 81, 1983). 

rock lobster

The B-52’s started recorded their fourth album – BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES – in July 1985.  At that time, the band was comprised of vocalist Fred Schneider, vocalist and keyboardist Kate Pierson, vocalist and percussionist Cindy Wilson, lead guitarist Ricky Wilson (Cindy’s brother), and drummer / rhythm guitarist and keyboardist Keith Strickland.  This had been the lineup since the band’s formation in 1976.

b-52's with ricky

During the recording of BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES, it was discovered that Ricky Wilson was suffering from AIDS.  None of the rest of The B-52’s (except for Keith Strickland) had known about it.  In an interview, Kate Pierson had said that Ricky Wilson kept his illness a secret from the rest of the band because he “did not want anyone to worry about him or fuss about him.” 

On October 12, 1985, while still in the recording process of BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES, Ricky Wilson died of AIDS at the heartbreakingly young age of 32 years old.

Ricky Wilson, Guitarist for the B-52s

After Ricky’s death, drummer Keith Strickland learned how to play guitar in Ricky’s own style and switched from drummer to lead guitarist.  The band hired session musicians to help out as well, including the album’s producer, Tony Mansfield (who had also worked with Naked Eyes, Captain Sensible, a-ha and After The Fire).

bouncing

Devastated beyond belief at the loss of Ricky Wilson, The B-52’s released BOUNCING OFF THE SATELLITES on September 8, 1986, with no fanfare and no tour, though they did make a music video for my favorite song on the album, “Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland.”

girl from ipanema

Cindy Wilson went into a deep depression following her brother’s death, Keith Strickland spent some time at Woodstock, NY, while Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson remained in New York City.  They all felt at that moment The B-52’s couldn’t continue without Ricky Wilson.

But, in time, Keith Strickland began composing songs again, and after playing some of the new music he had worked on to the rest of the band, they agreed to try and start writing together again.  The result was COSMIC THING, the biggest album the band would ever have.

cosmic thing

COSMIC THING’s production was smartly split up between Don Was (of Was (Not Was) fame) and Nile Rodgers.  It worked and then some, and the album’s first single, “Channel Z,” was not well-received anywhere except College and Modern Rock radio, who embraced it right away.  “Channel Z” would spend three weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart in August 1989.

channel z

“Channel Z” was also the B-side of the album’s second single, “Love Shack,” which was released a week in advance of COSMIC THING in late June 1989.  It took a month and a half to reach BILLBOARD’s Hot 100 chart and become the band’s fourth single to reach the chart. 

“Love Shack” debuted on the Hot 100 in early September 1989 at No. 84.  Within three weeks, “Love Shack” had already surpassed the peak of every B-52’s single which had reached the chart.  By the end of September 1989, it was the first Top 40 hit the band had in its U.S. homeland.

love shack

In early November 1989, The B-52’s landed their first Top 10 hit, with “Love Shack.”  That was also the week I saw them perform for the first time, when they came to the University of Maine at Orono and almost literally brought the roof of the venue down with their show.  They were amazing.  I would see them again on the COSMIC THING tour in 1990 at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

“Love Shack” would go on to spend a couple of weeks at No. 3 in November 1989, and just before Xmas 1989, it was certified Gold.  Follow-up single “Roam” debuted on the last Hot 100 of 1989, when “Love Shack” was still in the Top 30.  And, in late January 1990, “Roam” debuted within the Top 40 the last week “Love Shack” spent in the Top 40.  (“Roam” would also reach No. 3 and was certified Gold as well.)

roam

A total of 27 weeks was spent on the Hot 100 for “Love Shack,” one week more than half a year.  It was that lengthy time on the chart which saw it finish on the year-end BILLBOARD charts two years in a row.  Pretty impressive.  It also reached (with “Channel Z”) No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, spent four weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart, and received two MTV Video Music Awards, for Best Group Video and Best Art Direction.

b's 1989NERDY FUN FACT: “Love Shack” was produced by Don Was, and the inspiration for the song was this cabin around Athens, GA, which had a tin roof, and where the band conceived their first hit, “Rock Lobster.”  Kate Pierson even lived in the cabin back in the 70s (it burned down in 2004).  Prolly the most famous line in the song, where Cindy Wilson exclaims, “Tin roof…rusted,” was actually an outtake that was added to the song later on.

Around the globe, lots of love was felt for “Love Shack,” and it spent eight weeks at No. 1 in Australia, four weeks at No. 1 in New Zealand, a week at No. 1 in Ireland, plus it reached No. 2 in the U.K., and the Top 20 in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In a 2002 interview with ROLLING STONE (which named “Love Shack” as the Best Single of 1989), Fred Schneider spoke of the album’s success: “We thought it would be good, but we didn’t know how good.  We don’t really set out saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be commercial,’ or ‘This is going to be this or that.’  We just wanted good songs, and we thought the songs were really good.  We were pretty shocked, because we didn’t expect it to go that big.  The success of it brings problems because it’s really hard to do tours.  I’m not one to want to go tour at all, but to do eighteen months is like torture.  You just get offers that are really good and you’re going to New Zealand and Australia and all over Europe, and it’s pretty exciting.  It all went way beyond what you’d think.”

flintstones

After COSMIC THING, The B-52’s continued to record and chart for a few more years, including a fun cover of the TV theme song, “(Meet) The Flintstones” (from the 1994 FLINTSTONES movie starring John Goodman).  It snuck onto the Top 40 for one week in early June 1994.

Apart from recording (as The BC-52’s) for Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty (and a couple of popular compilations), the band took a lengthy hiatus, and in March 2008, released FUNPLEX, their first album in nearly 16 years.  It was worth the wait. 

funplex

In October 2011, they released a CD and a DVD of a live concert from earlier that year, WITH THE WILD CROWD! LIVE IN ATHENS, GA.  To borrow from a line out of FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, “It is so choice.  If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”  Seriously, it’s that good.  One of the best live performances I’ve ever seen on the small screen, from one of the bands with two of the best live performances I’ve seen in person.

with the wild crowd

Though the band hasn’t released a solo album since 2008’s FUNPLEX, The B-52’s continue to tour and perform 50-60 shows a year (minus Keith Strickland, who is still with the band, but who stopped performing live with them in 2012).  Sadly, I missed them this Summer, when they came to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire (where I saw Billy Idol in 2014), and when they performed with the Boston Pops.  That must have been incredible!  Prolly the only Pops show where you can’t control people from dancing on their seats, in the aisles and everywhere!

b's n pops

I gotta be honest, after years of playing it at wedding receptions, “Love Shack” is not my favorite B-52’s song.  But, if you were in a jam and tried to get people out onto the dance floor, that was THE go-to song, and people loved it, and loved dancing to it.  Though it’s not my favorite from the band, I do love the song to death, and I’m so glad it finally got The B-52’s the recognition they deserved after so many years of struggling despite putting out great music, and with the terrible loss they suffered when they lost Ricky Wilson. 

Both COSMIC THING and “Love Shack” are a testament to Ricky’s memory, and I’m so proud to call The B-52’s one of my all-time favorite bands, even if it took me awhile to get there.  They are a heluva lot of fun to listen to and dance to, play on the radio and see perform live, which I hope to do again sometime soon…

“Hop in my Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale and it’s about to set sail / I got me a car, like, it seats about 20 / So come on and bring your jukebox money…  The Love Shack is a little old place where we can get together / Love Shack, ba-by….”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SOryJvTAGs

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song of the day – “Straight Ahead” | NICK STRAKER BAND | 1982.

It’s an exciting day for me (1.11.2017), as today marks the one-year anniversary when I started my first-ever blog, FOREVER YOUNG: MY LIFE STUCK IN THE 80s!  I had my first post started but not posted when I learned of David Bowie’s death on this date in 2016, and he indirectly inspired me to start the blog that day.  Also, many special thanks go out to one of my BESTEST friends, Hope, for helping me get the darn thing started, and for her continued ideas in expanding the blog, which is on the list for this year.

For those who have been reading all along or check out the blog from time to time and/or share with other folks, I thank you!  If you’re reading this and are new to my blog, welcome!  FOREVER YOUNG: MY LIFE STUCK IN THE 80s is part autobiography, part singles chart nerdiness and all about my love for the 80s, which keeps me FOREVER YOUNG.

forever young blog logo

In the past year, I’ve written 244 posts, mostly highlighting a “song of the day” between 1979 and 1989, a “(real) one-hit wonder of the week” (the 80s had nearly 500 of them, so it’ll be years before I go through them all), tributes and other posts as well.  It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to sharing personal stories and great 80s gems for many years to come.

Though I consider myself well-versed in many different genres of music spanning several decades, anyone who knows me knows that 1980s music is my passion, and while I’m quite knowledgeable when it comes to 80s music, it’s amazing that 27 years after the 80s ended, I’m still learning about “new” (to me) 80s music. 

A few nights ago (1.8.2017), during my final (?) All-Request Fest on my little radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I got a request for a band I had never heard of – the Nick Straker Band – and a song I had never heard of – “Straight Ahead.”  Then again, I do have the smartest listeners on the planet.

straight-ahead

The Nick Straker Band was a six-man Synthpop / New Wave / Jazz-Funk Fusion band out of London, several members of which were also in another London Synthpop group, New Musik, which which had three Top 40 U.K. singles in 1980.  Tony Mansfield (who has gone on to work with artists like The B-52’s, a-ha, The Damned, Captain Sensible and Naked Eyes) was the primary songwriter, producer, lead vocalist and frontman of New Musik and was one of the members of the Nick Straker Band. 

Depending on who you speak to about the Nick Straker Band, some might say the band was a side project of New Musik.  I’d say no.  New Musik broke up in 1982, and between 1980 and 1984, the Nick Straker Band released 11 singles.  1980’s “A Walk In The Park” reached No. 20 on the U.K. singles chart, and in 1981, double A-sided single “A Little Bit Of Jazz” and “The Last Goodbye” spent a week at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart in September 1981, and reached No. 35 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.

a-little-bit-of-jazz

1982’s “Straight Ahead,” with a kick-ass rhythm guitar opening and those early 80s Synthpop drums and keyboards, was a treat to listen to the first time, and the second…  I was pleasantly surprised, especially since I had never heard of the Nick Straker Band or this song, 35 years after its release.  “Straight Ahead” is a Synthpop gem, complimented by a Post-Disco beat and a great sax solo.

As I look straight ahead to the future, I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’m introduced to an 80s song many years after the end of the decade, and honestly, I welcome that.  Though I missed songs like “Straight Ahead” the first time around, I’m grateful to have finally found out about them…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZdaB8Yvubw

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xmas song of the day – “One Christmas Catalogue” | CAPTAIN SENSIBLE | 1984.

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.

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The song for Day 7 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is 1984’s “One Christmas Catalogue,” by the oft-red beret-sporting Raymond Burns, who co-founded the legendary Punk Rock band The Damned 40 years ago and who we know better as Captain Sensible.dmw

When The Captain is not busy with The Damned, you can find him with his other band, the “supergroup” called Dead Men Walking, whose lineup includes The Alarm’s Mike Peters and Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats.  They’ve released four live albums.

Captain Sensible has also had a healthy solo career away from both bands, including a No. 1 U.K. hit, 1982’s “Happy Talk,” “Glad It’s All Over” (No. 6 U.K., 1984) and my favorite, “Wot” (No. 26, 1982; with multiple versions recorded and released through 2014).  He also had a minor hit in the U.K. with a “newer” favorite Xmas song from 1984 called “One Christmas Catalogue.”

I say “One Christmas Catalogue” is a “newer” favorite because I didn’t actually know about it until Rhino released a CD 20 years ago called JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH: NEW WAVE XMAS, part of their excellent multiple-CD (and long out of print) series focusing on New Wave gems, JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH.  (Of course, then again, it also took me awhile to discover The Damned.)  “One Christmas Catalogue” is one of 17 tracks on the (mostly) Alt-Rock collection, NEW WAVE XMAS, which quickly became a holiday staple for me, and a crucial part of every single Annual Holiday Show I’ve put together. 

new-wave-xmas

And I didn’t realize until today (not sure how this escaped me for 20 years), but the B-side of “One Christmas Catalogue” is one of the first covers of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s global No. 1 hit, “Relax” (out earlier that same year).  And it’s really effing good.  Both songs (and The Captain’s other early hits) are available on the 1984 compilation, SENSIBLE SINGLES.

sensible-singles

In 2012, ROLLING STONE magazine put together a list of The 25 Greatest Christmas Albums of All Time, and at No. 20 was NEW WAVE XMAS:  “This hall-decking edition of Rhino’s Eighties new wave compilation series is full of fun, quirky alt-pop nicely divided between oddball U.K. Christmas singles and college-radio novelties perfect for that last show you do before winter break,” and of “One Christmas Catalogue,” they added, “don’t sleep on Captain Sensible’s minor 1984 U.K. hit ‘”One Christmas Catalogue,’ a sublime synth-rock evocation of all the ways we use the holiday to mark time – for better or worse.”  Well, when it comes to 80s Xmas gems, including “One Christmas Catalogue,” I can safely say it’s for the better…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM9k5PRF3Oc

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