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

b's 1989 v2

Advertisements

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “Heart And Soul” | T’PAU | 1987.

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!”

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.

The nearly 80 songs that reached the No. 4 position on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989 had a bit of everything – Top 40 newbies which included Irene Cara (“Fame”), Asia (“Heat Of The Moment”), Samantha Fox (“Touch Me (I Want Your Body)”), the first two hits by Debbie Gibson (“Only In My Dreams,” “Shake Your Love”), Rickie Lee Jones (“Chuck E.’s In Love”), Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman (“Stumblin’ In”), Run-D.M.C. (“Walk This Way”), and Spandau Ballet (“True”).

walk this way

Songs that reached No. 4 also included the biggest U.S. chart hits for Howard Jones (“No One Is To Blame”), Electric Light Orchestra (“Don’t Bring Me Down”), Eddie Money (“Take Me Home Tonight”), OMD (“If You Leave”), Soul II Soul (“Back To Life”), Teena Marie (“Lovergirl”), The Fixx (“One Thing Leads To Another”) and Tommy Tutone (“867-5309/Jenny”).

don't bring me down

Some of my all-time favorite songs reached No. 4 as well, like “Urgent” by Foreigner, “Eyes Without A Face” by Billy Idol, “Mandolin Rain” by Bruce Hornsby & The Range, “Give Me The Night” by George Benson, Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Sign Your Name,” “Sultans Of Swing” by Dire Straits, “Freeze-Frame” by The J. Geils Band and “Cruisin’” by Smokey Robinson.

urgent

Multiple artists hit No. 4 more than once, including Lionel Richie (one solo and two with the Commodores), Duran Duran, Fleetwood Mac (who spent an agonizing then-record seven weeks at No. 4 with 1982’s “Hold Me”), the aforementioned Debbie Gibson, Madonna, Phil Collins (one solo and two with Genesis), Ray Parker, Jr. (one solo and one with Raydio), and Stevie Wonder.

Two memorable Elvis covers also reached No. 4 – “Don’t Be Cruel” by Cheap Trick and “Always On My Mind” by Pet Shop Boys (the highest-charting version of that song here in America).

always on my mind

Two (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 between 1979 and 1989.  The first one was Taco, the German musician whose spirited version of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ On The Ritz” reached No. 4 in September 1983, and was a huge international hit. 

taco

tpau2

The original T’Pau (from STAR TREK).

The second (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s to reach No. 4 was a British Pop / Rock band whose lead singer, Carol Decker, hailed from Liverpool, and the band’s name came from a character in the original STAR TREK from the 60s – T’Pau, the name of a Vulcan elder.  Before deciding on a name for the band, their working name was Talking America.

T’Pau formed in 1986 as a six-member band and released their debut single, “Heart And Soul,” in late April 1987, a month in advance of their debut album, BRIDGE OF SPIES.  One of the memorable things about “Heart And Soul” is that Carol Decker is in a duet with herself, courtesy of overlapping vocals.

bridge of spies

A couple of weeks after its release, “Heart And Soul” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early May 1987 at No. 91.  It landed in the Top 40 six weeks into its chart run, steadily climbing on the chart until peaking at No. 4 for a week in early August 1987, the month it was released in in their U.K. homeland.  During this time, it was also featured in a Pepe Jeans ad, though I can’t really say I even remember Pepe Jeans.  But, it seemed to help the song’s chart success.

Despite that chart success here in America, “Heart And Soul” did not fare well in the U.K. upon its release, but eventually the U.K. warmed up to the song, and it, too, reached No. 4.  Outside of the U.S. and the U.K., “Heart And Soul” reached No. 4 in Ireland, No. 5 in Canada, No. 9 in New Zealand and Switzerland, No. 10 in France and Germany, and the Top 20 in Australia, Belgium, South Africa, Sweden and the BILLBOARD Dance chart. 

heart and soul

Thanks to its 27 weeks on the Hot 100, “Heart And Soul” finished 1987 here in the U.S. at No. 33 for the year, above No. 1 hits by Kim Wilde, George Michael and Aretha Franklin, Huey Lewis & The News, Madonna and two No. 1 songs by Michael Jackson.

Though T’Pau never charted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 again, their biggest international success came with another single from BRIDGE OF SPIES – “China In Your Hand,” which was a massive No. 1 hit in several countries, including the U.K. and Switzerland (5 weeks at No. 1), Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands (2 weeks), plus a No. 1 rank in Norway, and Top 10 rankings in (at least) Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Poland and Sweden.

china in your hand

T’Pau is still together today, though from the original six-member band, the only members left are “Heart And Soul” co-writers Carol Decker and rhythm guitarist / songwriter Ronnie Rogers.  In early 2015, they released their fifth studio album, PLEASURE & PAIN, which became their first-charting U.K. album in nearly 25 years.

pleasure and pain

For this album, Carol Decker expressed her frustration through an interview about her new music not being played vs. the radio stations being only interested in playing their 80s classics:  “It’s a little harder to get on the radio because all the ‘80s stations play the ‘80s stuff and they won’t play your new stuff.  They actually say they can’t, and then the younger stations play the younger artists, the hip stations.  That’s the downside, and I miss hearing radio plays for the new stuff… it is a little frustrating that I can’t get it out to the wider audience anymore.” 

This is just one of many reasons why I need to (soon) start the next incarnation of my radio show, STUCK IN THE 80s, so I can highlight the new music, like I did on my longtime show with WMPG. 

Though I honestly never kept up with T’Pau (partially because of the one hit here), I always loved “Heart And Soul,” and continue to introduce it to folks when I can (I recently guest-hosted a show on WMPG with my former radio neighbor, DJ Shaxx, and he fell in love with it when we played it on the air).

tpauThank you, Carol and Ronnie, for putting some needed “Heart And Soul” into my music for 1987.  30 years later, it’s not forgotten…

“Give a little bit of heart and soul / Give a little bit of love to grow / Give a little bit of heart and soul / And don’t you make me beg for more / Give a sign, I need to know / A little bit of heart and soul…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwrYMWoqg5w

song of the day – “Elvis Is Everywhere” | MOJO NIXON & SKID ROPER | 1987.

August 16th, for me at least, makes me think of three people: the new Queen of the Teens, my niece, Jennifer, who turned 13 today (8.16.2016);  the Queen of Pop, Madonna, who turns 58 today; and, the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, who passed away 39 years ago today at the young age of 42.

As much as I love Madonna and her work (apart from the last couple of releases, anyway), there’s one song that’s preventing me from posting a Madonna “song of the day” today – “Elvis Is Everywhere” by Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper. 

elvis is everywhere AUS

The Australian single cover for “Elvis Is Everywhere.”

North Carolina-born Mojo Nixon (real name Neill Kirby McMillan, Jr.) got his start in the first half of the 80s collaborating with his future music partner-in-crime, Skid Roper (real name Richard Banke).  They specialized in Psychobilly music, which is a marriage-of-sorts of Punk, Rock, Rockabilly and R&B.  Their 1985 debut album, MOJO NIXON AND SKID ROPER, featured the original version of the Alt-Rock gem, “Jesus At McDonald’s.”bo-day-shus!!!

A couple years later, in 1987, on their fourth album together, they released BO-DAY-SHUS!!!, which featured what has prolly become their best-known song, “Elvis Is Everywhere” (their own personal tribute to The King).

When Mojo and Skid weren’t singing about their hero, they were releasing songs about other musicians and other folks in the music field that you prolly wouldn’t consider tributes: his 1995 album, WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN, features a cover of The Smiths’ 1987 song, “Girlfriend In A Coma,” where Mojo actually makes fun of Morrissey in the song; 1989’s “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child” (featuring Winona Ryder in the video); “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin” (about MTV’s Martha Quinn); and, “Don Henley Must Die” from Mojo’s solo 1990 album, OTIS.  Of the song, Don Henley said, “Personally, I think the boy just needs a good laxative.”  Several years later, Don Henley joined Mojo Nixon at a show in Austin, Texas, and a very surprised Mojo said, “Is Debbie Gibson here too?”  Mojo and Don performed an alternate tongue-in-cheek version of the song, called, “Rick Astley Must Die.”  Of that moment, Mojo Nixon said of Don Henley, “He has balls the size of church bells!”

mojo about don henley

Mojo Nixon officially retired from the music business in 2004, though occasionally coming out for a show, and hosting a radio program on Sirius Satellite Radio.  The retirement lasted five years, and in 2009, he released the album, WHISKEY REBELLION (his last album to date).  If I had ever gotten an interview with Mojo at some point, I would have loved to ask him one question in particular (and a question he prolly got all the time) about “Elvis Is Everywhere”: does he really still think Michael J. Fox has no Elvis in him?  (Through some interweb research, at last check, Mojo definitely still thinks Michael is the Anti-Elvis…)

Speaking of today’s wonderful “song of the day,” sure, in the song, Mojo mispronounces Bermuda, confuses Mr. Spock of STAR TREK with pediatrician and author Dr. Benjamin Spock, and yeah, maybe 29 years later, “Elvis is in Joan Rivers” and “Elvis is in your mom” sounds dirty and inappropriate, but honestly, when it comes to paying tribute to Elvis Presley, there’s no other song for me than this high-spirited and really fun classic that really comes close… 

Thank you, Elvis.  Thank you Mojo and Skid.  And thank you, ma’am…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knc9LKjukSQ

nixonroper-splsh