song of the day – “Dancing In The Dark” | BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN | 1984.

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, since the start of June, I have been highlighting songs that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits have gotten bigger with each post.  On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40.  With the next post, 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!”

If you listened to AMERICAN TOP 40 as faithfully as I did back in the 80s, before Nos. 2 and 1 were announced, he’d usually take a commercial break before announcing them, and would usually say, “The two biggies are coming right up!”  “The two biggies.”  Always cracked me up and still does.

But, when it came to AMERICAN TOP 40, “the two biggies” were, in fact, a big deal.  There a few positions on the chart that are the most frustrating, like Nos. 101, 41 and 11, but no other peak position on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (or any singles chart, for that matter) was more frustrating to stop at than No. 2.

Foreigner endured the No. 2 position the longest in the 80s, spending 10 weeks in the runner-up spot in 1981 and 1982 with “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” a chart record Foreigner still shares to this day.  And I believe Madonna, who has six No. 2 songs to her credit (four of them in the 80s), still holds the chart record for most No. 2 singles in Hot 100 history.

waiting for a girl like you

All told, nearly 100 songs reached No. 2 between 1979 and 1989, including songs by three Beatles (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison, whose 1981 No. 2 hit, “All Those Years Ago,” was a tribute to John Lennon), two Jacksons (Michael and Janet), and a couple of (real) one-hit wonders, including the Cold War Classic by Nena, “99 Luftballons.”

99 luftballons

danger zoneSome of the biggest songs in history that maybe you thought were No. 1 hits in America were actually No. 2 hits, such as “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, “Easy Lover” by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins, “We Got The Beat” by The Go-Go’s, “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant, “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp, “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones and “Purple Rain” by Prince And The Revolution.

Several artists peaked at No. 2 between 1979 and 1989 with two songs, including The Bangles, Culture Club (with their first two hits), Air Supply, Duran Duran, Glenn Frey, Kool & The Gang, John Mellencamp, Billy Ocean (including the guilty pleasure, “Loverboy,” which a DJ back in the day once referred to as “Heavy Metal Disco”; I would disagree), plus Robert Palmer, Pointer Sisters, Linda Ronstadt (in two big duets with James Ingram and Aaron Neville), Tina Turner and Jody Watley. 

loverboy

Michael Jackson gets an honorable mention, as he peaked at No. 2 with “The Girl Is Mine” with Paul McCartney, and he is featured in an uncredited role backing up Rockwell on “Somebody’s Watching Me.”  Likewise with Sheena Easton, who backed up Prince uncredited on “U Got The Look” and had her own No. 2 hit in 1989 with the sexy Dance hit, “The Lover In Me” (a long way from when she took that “Morning Train” to No. 1 in 1981; I’m sure Prince may have had something to do with it).

the lover in me

Speaking of Prince, he had three No. 2 hits between 1979 and 1989, or in this case, 1984 through 1987, with the aforementioned “Purple Rain” and “U Got The Look,” but also with “Raspberry Beret.”  He, too, gets an honorable mention, as he composed the No. 2 hit for The Bangles, “Manic Monday.”

lovesong

And a number longtime recording artists saw their biggest hits stop at No. 2, like The Cure (“Lovesong”), Journey (“Open Arms”), The Greg Kihn Band (“Jeopardy”), and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark.”

If there was any one huge artist in the 80s I wanted to see reach No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart, it was Bruce Springsteen.  I was first introduced to Bruce’s music with 1980’s “Hungry Heart,” from his first No. 1 album, THE RIVER.  At the time, I had no idea he had already released four critically-acclaimed and successful albums.

hungry heart

After “Hungry Heart,” I was a Bruce fan for life – granted, not the superfan that Hope is, but I don’t think anyone loves Bruce’s work more than Hope, except maybe for Bruce’s wife, Patti Scialfa.

“Dancing In The Dark” was released in early May 1984, a month before the BORN IN THE U.S.A. album was released.  And, right out of the gate, it was a hit.  “Dancing In The Dark” blasted onto the BILLBOARD Hot 100 the last week of May 1984 all the way into the Top 40, at No. 36.  By the next week, it was already No. 18, with its eyes set on No. 1.

dancing in the dark

Bruce had hit No. 1 before – as a songwriter.  A song from his 1973 debut album, GREETINGS FROM ASBURY PARK, N.J. – “Blinded By The Light” – was recorded by the London Rock band, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, in 1977, and spent a week at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in February 1977, exactly four years to the month when Bruce’s original was released as a single.

bruce blinded

“Dancing In The Dark” had a lot going for it – a popular video directed by Brian de Palma (SCARFACE, THE UNTOUCHABLES, CARRIE, DRESSED TO KILL and the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film) with actress Courtney Cox (FAMILY TIES, FRIENDS) dancing with Bruce on the stage (the video would win the MTV Video Music Award for Best Stage Performance). 

courtney n bruce

It also had a 12” Dance remix courtesy of Arthur Baker (who’s remixed songs for Daryl Hall & John Oates, Afrika Bambaataa, Cyndi Lauper, Pet Shop Boys and New Order).  The “Blaster Mix” was miles away from anything on 1982’s NEBRASKA or 1980’s THE RIVER, but people loved it.  Not only did it reach No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, it was the biggest-selling 12” single for all of 1984.  Arthur Baker would also go on to remix the follow-up Bruce singles “Cover Me” and “Born In The U.S.A.” as well.

blaster mix

As much as “Dancing In The Dark” had going for it in its second week on the Hot 100, another single debuting on the same chart that early June was “When Doves Cry” by Prince, released in advance of the album and film, PURPLE RAIN.  “When Doves Cry” reached the Top 40 a week later, and just like “Dancing In The Dark,” made a big move into the Top 20 the following week.

By late June 1984, “Dancing In The Dark” had climbed to No. 4, while “When Doves Cry” was closing in at No. 8.  The following week, “When Doves Cry” had jumped to No. 3, and “Dancing In The Dark” was at No. 2, right behind Duran Duran’s “The Reflex.”

“When Doves Cry” proved to be too powerful for “Dancing In The Dark,” which stayed for four weeks in the runner-up position.  “When Doves Cry” was the biggest song of 1984 here in America.

when doves cry back

Though “Dancing In The Dark” didn’t reach No. 1, Bruce Springsteen still had a lot to be proud of.  The song gave Bruce his first Grammy Award, winning for Best Rock Vocal Performance.  In the 1984 ROLLING STONE readers poll, “Dancing In The Dark” was voted “Single Of The Year.”  It’s also listed as one of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.”  It sold a million copies in the U.S. alone, and the single’s B-side (one of the best ever), “Pink Cadillac,” was a Top 5 hit for Natalie Cole in 1988.

pink cadillac

Around the globe, “Dancing In The Dark” was an international smash (though in some countries it took awhile), reaching No. 1 in Belgium and the Netherlands, No. 2 in Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden, No. 4 in South Africa and the U.K., No. 7 in Canada and Norway, No. 11 in Finland and No. 12 in Italy.  In Australia, though it stopped at No. 5, it was the No. 1 song of the year, spending 40 weeks on the singles chart there.

“Dancing In The Dark” was just the first part of an amazing journey for Bruce Springsteen and the BORN IN THE U.S.A. album.  Seven out of the album’s 12 songs were released as singles, and all seven reached the Top 10 on the Hot 100 between 1984 and 1986, tying a record set in 1984 by Michael Jackson’s THRILLER album. 

born in the usa LP

BRUCE_SPRINGSTEEN_BORN+IN+THE+USA+-+LONG+BOX-219449b

The first compact disc manufactured in the U.S.A. was BORN IN THE U.S.A.

BORN IN THE U.S.A. was No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s album chart twice, in July / August 1984 and January / February 1985.  PURPLE RAIN may have been the album of the year here in the U.S. for 1984 (BORN IN THE U.S.A. was No. 28), but for 1985, BORN IN THE U.S.A. was the No. 1 album of the year in America (and even No. 16 for 1986).

NERDY FUN FACT: BORN IN THE U.S.A. was the first compact disc manufactured in the U.S. for commercial release.  I remember seeing it at a DeOrsey’s in Waterville, Maine, and think it sold for something like $25.00.  And the record album still sounds better.

NERDY FUN FACT 2: According to a 1984 ROLLING STONE interview, the “Dancing In The Dark” Blaster Mix by Arthur Baker happened because Bruce had heard the remix Arthur did for Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” and he thought it was incredible: “It sounded like fun, so I hooked up with Arthur.  He’s a character, a great guy.  He had another fellow with him, and they were really pretty wild.  They’d get on that mixing board and just crank them knobs, you know?  The meters were goin’ wild.”

cyndi girls

Bruce Springsteen is one of those rare artists who have been on the same record label from the start – Columbia.  Two other Columbia artists instantly come to mind – Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan.  There won’t be anyone else like them.  Ever. 

bob n bruce

Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen (along with many other familiar faces) at the “We Are The World” recording session, 1985.

If you pull away the catchy dance beat, “Dancing In The Dark” is a personal song about the difficulty of writing a hit song and Bruce’s frustration of trying to write songs that will please everyone.  Though I’m thinking Bruce would have liked to have another of his more personal songs become his biggest hit, I would almost bet my record collection he’s alright with that hit being “Dancing In The Dark.”

e st band

Bruce Springsteen with The E Street Band, 1984.

“You can’t start a fire / You can’t start a fire without a spark / This gun’s for hire / Even if we’re just dancing in the dark…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=129kuDCQtHs

bruce 84

Advertisements

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

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82.  From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued 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. 

logo

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 – “The Host Of Seraphim” | DEAD CAN DANCE | 1988.

“…I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the Hekhal [sanctuary].  Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.”  The seraphim cry continually to each other, “Holy, holy, holy, is YHWH of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:1–3; Hebrew Bible)

In the 80s music bible, “The Host Of Seraphim” is a 1988 treasure that belongs to the brilliant and phenomenal Ethereal / Dark Wave band and then some, Dead Can Dance. 

dcdold

Dead Can Dance was formed in Melbourne, Australia in August 1981, led by the then-couple Lisa Gerrard (vocalist) and Brendan Perry (vocals and guitar).  The following year, they moved to London and signed on with one of my all-time favorite record labels, 4AD.  (Away from DCD, Lisa Gerrard has also scored several films, and picked up an Academy Award Nomination and a Golden Globe Award for co-scoring – with Hans Zimmer – the 2000 Russell Crowe film, GLADIATOR.)

Their first album, a self-titled effort, was released in 1984, and early on were described as “as Goth as it gets,” though they dismissed that label.  I would also dismiss that label, mainly because they are in a class all by themselves. 

DCD LP

By June 1990, Dead Can Dance had already released five albums and an EP, all of which were not readily available in the U.S. until the early 90s, which is when I discovered them for the first time.

It was the Spring of 1994, I was 27 years old and had just moved to Portland, Maine in late January of that year.  I was still making friends and one of my new friends suggested that I see a film unlike any other – it was a concept film called BARAKA.

the movies sign

Back then, there was this small, independent art-house theater simply called The Movies.  It was in the heart of Portland’s famed Old Port section of town, and had been around for many years.  BARAKA was actually released in September 1992, but for some reason, The Movies didn’t get it until early 1994.

For those who have not yet seen BARAKA, some are quick to call it a documentary, but there’s no narration or voice-overs in it, and I’ve always considered it to be more of a concept film for that reason.  BARAKA, kinda like Dead Can Dance, is in a class all by itself.  BARAKA was filmed in 24 countries on six continents around the globe, photographed in then-groundbreaking 70mm film, and the tagline for the film is “A world beyond words.” 

BARAKA is literally breathtaking to watch.  The late, great film critic of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, Roger Ebert, put BARAKA in his “Great Movies” list, writing, “If man sends another Voyager to the distant stars and it can carry only one film on board, that film might be BARAKA.”  When the film was reworked for a Blu-Ray release in 2008, Roger Ebert described it as “the finest video disc I have ever viewed or ever imagined.”  High praise indeed.

baraka

Where there is music in the film, most of the score is by Michael Sterns, who is best-known for his work with Ambient and Space music.  He released over 20 solo albums between 1979 and 2001.  During a seven-minute span in BARAKA, there was a song that played over multiple scenes of severe poverty, from homelessness to young prostitution to hundreds of women and children sifting through acres of garbage in hopes of finding food.  You can find the link to this video at the end of the blog post.

As much as BARAKA is breathtaking with its global beauty, the scenes like the ones mentioned above are equally heartbreaking.  The filmmakers couldn’t have picked a better song for that sequence of the film.

Not long after I saw BARAKA in the theater, I stopped by a record store in the same building as the movie theater (at the time, I lived in the Old Port section of Portland, so I was in the area constantly).  The name of the record store was Bad Habits.  The owners of the store would later run the amazing Alternative Portland nightclub, Zootz (both of which sadly disappeared from Portland’s cultural landscape many years ago). 

I was in the store perusing one day, and one of the owners, George, let me take a promotional sampler by Dead Can Dance, of which I had heard a couple of their most recent songs (from 1993’s INTO THE LABYRINTH album, most likely).  Even though I wasn’t that familiar with the band, I, of course, didn’t turn down the free sampler. 

sampler

When I got back to my apartment, I played the CD and was excited to learn that the song I heard in BARAKA was by Dead Can Dance, and it was called “The Host Of Seraphim.”  I always thought the name Dead Can Dance was pretty cool, and in the years ahead, especially after I started STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio) in 1996, I learned a lot more about Dead Can Dance, and was quite impressed at their catalog, and with the fact something like that came out of the 80s. 

dcdold2

As much as I love Pop acts like Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Huey Lewis and Michael Jackson, the 80s weren’t just about them.  Dead Can Dance is absolute and substantial proof of that.

“The Host Of Seraphim” is the opening song from THE SERPENT’S EGG, the fourth studio album by Dead Can Dance, released a week before Halloween in 1988.  Of the album’s interesting title, Brendan Perry once said, “In a lot of aerial photographs of the Earth, if you look upon it as a giant organism – a macrocosmos – you can see that the nature of the life force, water, travels in a serpentine way.”  It’s very true.

the serpent's egg

In addition to its use in BARAKA, “The Host Of Seraphim” has been used in film and television a number of times, including 2002’s RIPLEY’S GAME, 2006’s HOME OF THE BRAVE, the trailer for 2003’s TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, 2010’s LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE, the third-season finale of this year’s HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, and in the last ten minutes of the 2007 film, THE MIST, based on the 1980 book of the same name by Maine’s own Stephen King.

toward the within

Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, from the 1994 TOWARD THE WITHIN live DVD.

Since they are so different than anything else I have loved in music for the past (nearly) 40 years, I had hoped to see Dead Can Dance perform live.  Their last album was in 2012 (ANASTASIS; Greek for “resurrection”), their first album in 16 years.  At the very least, I do have their TOWARD THE WITHIN live DVD from 1994, and they are sensational and then some. 

Dead Can Dance Anstasis

For the ANASTASIS album, Lisa Gerrard did a 2012 interview with PITCHFORK, and her responses to the questions were as amazing as Dead Can Dance’s music.  One of the questions PITCHFORK asked was, “There seems to have always been as much emphasis on the power of space or ambience in your music, is that something that emerges naturally?” 

Lisa Gerrard replied, “I’d call that blind belief.  It’s almost like you’re standing on something that’s much more powerful than you.  It’s like a frequency that comes up through the ground, like sticking your finger into an electrical socket.  There are so many layers to who we are as human beings outside of this terrible, grey shadow of materiality.  I think the message that’s always been there in Dead Can Dance is, ‘Come on, wake up.  Wake up, visceral.  Wake up, abstract.  Wake up, practical.  Wake up, mind.  Wake up, soul.  This is who you are.  This is where you’re going.  This is the journey.  Here we are.  This is the campfire.  The campfire is music’.”

seraphim

One depiction of what a seraphim looks like.

If you hadn’t already been familiar with meaning of the word “seraphim,” it’s another word for an angelic being, with six wings, and is part of the highest of orders of the celestial hierarchy, and (like other angelic beings, I suppose) it’s associated with light, ardor [enthusiasm or passion], and purity. 

The music that Dead Can Dance has brought to my life for many years is something I would consider of an angelic nature.  And, if not angelic, well, it’s not far off.  Their music is among the best I’ve ever heard.  And “The Host Of Seraphim” is truly one of THE most extraordinary and heartbreaking pieces of music I’ll treasure forever.

In a 2013 retrospective review in AllMusic, “The Host Of Seraphim” was hailed as “so jaw-droppingly good that almost the only reaction is sheer awe.”  I couldn’t agree more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGfl_aYu8Hc

DCD 89

song of the day – “You Know I Love You…Don’t You?” | HOWARD JONES | 1986 / 1987.

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

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

stuck-all-request-fest

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

One of my favorite No. 17 hits on the Hot 100 is courtesy of one of my all-time favorite recording artists – Southampton, England’s wonderful Howard Jones – “You Know I Love You…Don’t You?”

one-to-one

From Howard’s third studio album, ONE TO ONE, “You Know I Love You…Don’t You?” was the first single released from the album here in America (in the U.K. and other parts of the globe, “All I Want” was the first single released). 

Just four weeks after HoJo’s biggest American hit, “No One Is To Blame,” departed the BILLBOARD Hot 100, he debuted at No. 69 with “You Know I Love You…Don’t You?”

you-know-i-love-you-us

The U.S. cover art for “You Know I Love You…Don’t You?”

The creative part-animated, part-live action video (perhaps inspired by the Richard Lowenstein-directed INXS video of “What You Need” earlier that year) was directed by Wayne Isham, who was attending the University of California at Santa Barbara when the video for David Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes” was released in 1980, and the video inspired him to start making videos.

While the majority of the early videos Wayne directed were by Hard Rock and Metal artists like Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Queensrÿche and Megadeth, he also directed videos for folks like The Psychedelic Furs (“Pretty In Pink”), Whitney Houston (“So Emotional”), The Rolling Stones and Roxette.  At the MTV Video Music Awards in 1991, Wayne Isham (along with Bon Jovi) received the Lifetime Achievement Award, better known as the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.

you-know-i-love-you-uk

The U.K. cover art for “You Know I Love You.”

With help from the cool music video, “You Know I Love You” debuted on the Top 40 of the Hot 100 in just four weeks.  Just before Xmas 1986, it was stuck in a competitive part of the chart, and spent three weeks over the holiday season at No. 17.

While “You Know I Love You” was one of HoJo’s biggest hits here in the U.S., it sadly didn’t fare as well elsewhere.  In Canada, it reached No. 26, a peak of No. 61 in Australia, and in his U.K. homeland, it stalled at No. 43.

My oldest friend, Peter, and I got to see HoJo in Portland, Maine in late June  2016.  It was my second time seeing HoJo perform (the first time was in 1998 in Boston, on a tour with The Human League and Culture Club).  I honestly could see this man perform every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  Howard hasn’t had a Top 40 hit in 25 years, but as much as I love singles chart trivia, I also know the Pop charts don’t define recording artists, and definitely doesn’t define HoJo.

hojo-now

Howard Jones today…

One of the things I love about seeing Howard Jones perform is how comfortable he is in his element.  And the things that man can do with a synthesizer!  Holy cats!  Brilliant, and incredibly fun to watch. 

hojo-live

HoJo performing live, 2016…

I know I don’t have to ask this question, but Howard, “You Know I Love You…Don’t You?”  You bet I do.  Hope to see you around these parts again soon…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy3K8tLhQpE

hojo-86-big

xmas song of the day – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” | BAND AID | 1984 / 1985.

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

stuck-holiday-show-promo-art

The song for Day 30 of THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is prolly the biggest holiday song of my generation, written and spearheaded by Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats and Midge Ure of Ultravox, in response to the TV reports of famine in Ethiopia – “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid.

Bob and Midge first got together about this project in early November 1984, and knew they had a limited time frame to work with, if they wanted to get the song ready for the holiday.  They put the song together, and then started recruiting many of the biggest recording stars in the U.K. and Ireland at the time (save for Chicago’s Jody Watley and Jersey City’s Kool & The Gang, who happened to be on the same record label as The Boomtown Rats and who happened to be in there when Bob Geldof pitched the idea to the label). 

bob-geldof-midge-ure

Bob Geldof (in his “Feed The World” T-shirt) and Midge Ure.

They then asked famed producer Trevor Horn (Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Art Of Noise) if he would produce, but he told Bob and Midge that he would need at least six weeks to do it, which wouldn’t get the record ready in time for Xmas.  Though Trevor Horn wasn’t able to produce the original single, he did offer a studio for them to use free of charge for 24 hours on Sunday, November 25, 1984, and he later produced and remixed the 12” single for a 1985 re-release.

Nearly 40 recording artists, including members of Duran Duran, U2, Culture Club, The Boomtown Rats, Bananarama, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox and Status Quo, as well as folks like Sting, Paul Young, George Michael, Phil Collins (who played drums on the song) and Paul Weller of The Style Council, participated on the benefit record.  Artists who weren’t able to be there but who sent in recorded messages were David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Big Country.  These messages were included on the single’s B-side and as part of the 12” extended mix.

It took only a week after recording ended to release “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  The single had 250,000 advance orders and that number swelled to a million less than a week after its release.  Phonogram (who put out the single in the U.K.) had all five of its European factories working on pressing that one single to help meet demand.

On December 15, 1984, just 12 days after its release, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” spent the first of its five weeks at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart.  It was the fastest-selling single in U.K. chart history and sold three million copies in the U.K. alone by the end of 1984.  Until Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind 1997” 13 years later, it was the biggest-selling single of all-time in the U.K.

band-aid

Around the globe, the response to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was phenomenal.  It also reached No. 1 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Over here in the U.S., the video for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was played often throughout the holiday season on MTV, and the single was released on December 10, 1984 on Columbia Records.  A few days before Xmas, it debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 65.  For the first chart in 1985, it shot up to No. 20.  But, despite the fact it was outselling Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” (the No. 1 single then) by a four-to-one margin (selling nearly two million copies in its first eleven days of release), the lack of airplay prevented it from charting any higher than No. 13.  It was gone from the Hot 100 after just nine weeks, departing in mid-February.

Bob Geldof had hoped “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” would raise £70,000 for Ethiopia, but instead, it raised £8 million within a year of its release.  And the support of the Ethiopian famine relief didn’t stop there. 

geldofliveaidIn early March 1985, (mostly) American recording artists teamed up as USA For Africa for the “We Are The World” single and album.  Canadian artists banded together as Northern Lights for “Tears Are Not Enough.”  The LIVE AID concert on July 13, 1985 brought musicians and fans together in London, Philadelphia and around the globe to raise money for famine relief.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” was re-recorded three times – in 1989, 2004 and 2014 – all three re-recordings reached No. 1 in the U.K. and all were charity records for Africa (the 1989 and 2004 versions went to famine relief, while the 2014 version raised money for the Ebola crisis in West Africa).bowie-8485

For this Xmas (and always), of course, the best gift I’d love to get is peace, love and understanding, especially for my wealth of family and friends.  I’d also love to see more support for those less fortunate than you or I.  On the 12” single for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” David Bowie puts out a plea for support: “It’s Christmas 1984, and there are more starving folk on the planet than ever before.  Please give a thought for them this season and do whatever you can, however small, to help them live.  Have a peaceful New Year.” 

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (especially the 12” extended mix) will always have a special place in my heart.  And from that 12” single, David Bowie’s plea, 32 years later, still resonates to this day. 

In Maine, there are so many folks in need – of food, heat, medicine, shelter, and affordable health care, for starters.  I’m sure it’s like that all over the US of A, and all over the world.  2016 has been a particularly rough year for a lot of reasons, and I do hope and pray that 2017 will be a peaceful New Year.  But first, Happy Xmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever you choose to celebrate, if anything – be safe, have fun and do what you can to help those who won’t have much of either this holiday season…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc8TYsYb5i0

band-aid

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “A Million Miles Away” | THE PLIMSOULS | 1983.

Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, a list that includes Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Timbuk 3, The Church, Bronski Beat, Nik Kershaw, The Buggles, The Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers.  Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.

valley-girl-poster

One of the great movie soundtracks to come out of the 80s was the soundtrack to 1983 film, VALLEY GIRL, starring a young Nicholas Cage in his first lead film role.  There was just one problem – despite all of the great music to come out of VALLEY GIRL, like Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” “Johnny Are You Queer?” by Josie Cotton, “Angst In My Pants” by Sparks, “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs and “Who Can It Be Now?” by Men At Work – there was no official soundtrack released. 

valley-girl-soundtrack-1

valley-girl-soundtrack-2Well, that changed in 1994 when Rhino Records put together VALLEY GIRL: MUSIC FROM THE SOUNDTRACK, a 15-track CD compilation of songs that appeared in the movie.  The soundtrack was so successful, Rhino put out a companion CD in 1995 called VALLEY GIRL: MORE MUSIC FROM THE SOUNDTRACK, which featured songs from Sparks, Thompson Twins, Bananarama, Culture Club, The Jam, “I Eat Cannibals” by Total Coelo, “Mickey” by Toni Basil and much more.

One of the songs featured in the film and on the first soundtrack was “A Million Miles Away,” a song by a Power Pop / Alt-Rock band formed in Paramount, California (just outside of Los Angeles) called The Plimsouls. 

everywhere-at-once

Formed in 1978 by singer / songwriter / guitarist Peter Case, The Plimsouls already had an EP and an album to their credit by 1983, when they released their second full-length album, EVERYWHERE AT ONCE.  When VALLEY GIRL was released in late April of that year, several songs from the film ended up being minor hits, prolly most notably, “I Melt With You” by Modern English, which reached No. 78 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in 1983, but has lived on in radio ever since.

a-million-miles-away

“A Million Miles Away” also benefited from its use in VALLEY GIRL, and debuted on the Hot 100 in late July 1983 at No. 88.  It reached its No. 82 peak the following week, and its stay on the Hot 100 was short-lived, leaving the chart after just three weeks.  They wouldn’t reach the Hot 100 again.blue-guitar

The Plimsouls broke up shortly after their minor success, and Peter Case has gone on to have a successful solo career, releasing 16 albums and compilations between 1986 and 2015, including one of my favorite album titles of the 80s, THE MAN WITH THE BLUE POST-MODERN FRAGMENTED NEO-TRADITIONALIST GUITAR (or BLUE GUITAR for short; from 1989).

The band has reunited a number of times since 1995, including a stint featuring Blondie’s Clem Burke.  They have also put out three live albums, the latest of which was released in 2012.

But, it was their 1983 Alt-Rock gem from a small movie with a future big actor and Academy Award winner and a kick-ass soundtrack that has thankfully endured much longer than its Hot 100 chart life, and never seems like a million miles away any time I revisit it…

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

plimsouls-2

song of the day – “The Politics Of Dancing” | RE-FLEX | 1984.

It’s Sunday, November 6th, two days away from what should be a historic Presidential election here in America on Tuesday, November 8th, and tonight, on my little 20-year-old 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine), I’ll be presenting a show about the only politics I can get behind – THE POLITICS OF DANCING: PRE-ELECTION DANCE FAVORITES.

the-politics-of-dancing-11-06-16

The inspiration for tonight’s radio show is “The Politics Of Dancing,” a longtime Dance favorite of mine by the U.K. New Wave / Synthpop band, Re-Flex.  The band was formed by vocalist / lead guitarist John Baxter and keyboardist Paul Fishman in the early 80s, and at one time, housed two future members of Level 42 – drummer Phil Gould and singer / bassist Mark King. 

politics-12

“The Politics Of Dancing” is the title track of the band’s 1983 album, and in the four years Re-Flex was active (1981-1985), THE POLITICS OF DANCING was the only album they released in the 80s.  A second album, HUMANICATION, was scheduled for release in 1985, but was pulled by Capitol Records’ parent company, EMI, because they thought the album would be thought of as too political here in the U.S.; it was finally issued as part of 6-album box set in 2010 encompassing the band’s entire work, including THE POLITICS OF DANCING, HUMANICATION and three other unreleased albums.

Released in early 1983, “The Politics Of Dancing” took awhile to find its feet (pun intended) here in America, and debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 89 on the last Saturday in November 1983.  It slowly danced its way up the chart, reaching the Top 40 in the second half of February 1984, spending a week at No. 24 on St. Patrick’s Day 1984 and a total of 21 weeks on the chart, which wasn’t too bad for a song that didn’t even reach the Top 20 (by comparison, Culture Club’s big No. 1 hit, “Karma Chameleon” – which left the chart two weeks after Re-Flex – was on the Hot 100 for 22 weeks).  On the BILLBOARD Dance chart, “The Politics Of Dancing” fared better, reaching No. 8.

politics-lp

In all, six songs from THE POLITICS OF DANCING were released (follow-up single “Hurt” stopped at No. 82 on the Hot 100), but it was the title track that danced its way into the hearts and legs of folks around the globe.  It reached No. 11 in Australia, No. 12 in New Zealand, No. 19 in South Africa, and the Top 30 in the U.K., Canada, Germany and Switzerland.

I wish I could tell you how the U.S. (and subsequently, the world) is going to be after Tuesday, but for now and always, I can take comfort in the politics that really matter to me – “The Politics Of Dancing.”

(“The politics of dancing / The politics of ooo feeling good / The politics of moving / Is this message understood?…”)

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

re-flex