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

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

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

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

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

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

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

long distance dedication 6.29.14

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

pollinator

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

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

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

parallel lines

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

heart of glass

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

sunday girl

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

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

blondie-1

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

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

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

Deborah Harry by Chris Stein, 1979

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

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

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

chris debbie clem 2013

Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Clem Burke, 2013.

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

blondie wkrp 1

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

blondie wkrp 2

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

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

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

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

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

one way or another

  

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song of the day – “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” | OUTLAWS | 1981.

casey-kasem-at40-abc-billboard-650

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

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

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

There are some songs in the history of music that just keep coming back and back and back again.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the late songwriter and actor, Stan Jones (who died of cancer in 1963 at the age of 49) would be flattered to the moon and back and then some.

Ranger-Stan

“(Ghost) Riders” writer and originator, Stan Jones.

When Stan Jones wasn’t acting in Westerns directed by the legendary (and Portland, Maine native) John Ford, he was writing songs, and one of those songs, a 1948 composition (written at the time he worked for the National Park Service in Death Valley, California) titled “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky: A Cowboy Legend” became a legend all its own.

Stan Jones recorded his original version of “(Ghost) Riders” in late 1948, and from there, it became one of the most-covered songs in history.  Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Peggy Lee, The Ventures, Bob James and Dick Dale have covered it.  So have Tom Jones, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy and Peter, Paul & Mary.  Deborah Harry of Blondie recorded a trance version of it in 1998, and more recently, Judy Collins, Concrete Blonde and various Death Metal bands have covered this classic.

debbie harry riders

Pretty bleepin’ cool.

“(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” has even reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in four different versions.  In 1961, The Ramrods (an Instrumental Rock band out of Connecticut) reached No. 30, and Lawrence Welk reached No. 87 with his version.  In 1966, the Baja Marimba Band took it to No. 52.  And, in 1981, Southern Rockers the Outlaws scored the second-highest charted version in BILLBOARD Hot 100 history with their cool, rockin’ 6-minute cover.

ghost riders LP

The Outlaws, formed in Tampa, Florida in 1967,  released their sixth studio album, GHOST RIDERS, in late November 1980.  The band had some moderate success in the 70s with their 1975 hit, “There Goes Another Love Song,” reaching the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100.ghost riders 7

The single released from GHOST RIDERS was “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky.”  It made its Hot 100 debut at No. 83 on the last chart of 1980, a couple of days after Xmas.

Throughout the first weeks of 1981, the Outlaws steadily climbed the Hot 100, entering the Top 40 on Valentine’s Day 1981.  “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” reached No. 31 in early March 1981, but fell out of the Top 40 the following week and left the Hot 100 in early April 1981 after 15 weeks on the chart.  It was the last time the band would reach the Hot 100.

Bruce Willis Performs in Las Vegas

Bruce Willis as John McClane singing “(Ghost) Riders?”  It could happen!

DREAM COVER: Someone should get Bruce Willis to cover this song, but as his famous character from the DIE HARD films, John McClane – “Yippe-ki-yay (motherfucker)!  Yippie-ki-yo (motherfucker)!”  Wouldn’t that be fun?

The Outlaws have been around for the better part of 50 years, with a long list of lineup changes that would take up another post entirely.  None of the original members are still with the band (a couple of them died in 1995, another in 2007).    They released their last studio album, IT’S ABOUT PRIDE, in 2012, and their fifth live album, LEGACY LIVE (a 2-CD set), in 2016.

legacy live

It’s hard to believe that I had nearly forgotten about this amazing cover from the Outlaws when Hope brought it to my attention years ago.  Long story longer, I fell in love with this version all over again and played it on STUCK IN THE 80s often during the show’s last several years.

And if I were a betting man, I think Stan Jones might have have been much more than flattered when he heard The Outlaws version, and I think he would have raised his fist up and started jammin’ to it, or at the very least, tipped his cowboy hat in appreciation.  Yippie-yi-yaaaay.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmpvpypXKf0

outlaws 1980

song of the day – “Call Me” | BLONDIE | 1980.

One of the first things I learned about WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine when I started my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s, there in 1996 was the Begathon.  WMPG gets approximately 1/3 of its funding from the University of Southern Maine, approximately 1/3 from underwriting, and approximately 1/3 from listener donations.  A large chunk of the latter comes from the Begathon.  What started out as a 2-week pledge drive in which volunteer radio hosts would “beg” to raise money for the station is now split up into two 1-week pledge drives, one in the Spring and one in the Fall.  It’s come a long way since my first Begathon in the Fall of 1996.  My very last Begathon for WMPG will be on Sunday, 9.25.2016.

fall-2016-beg-poster

The 80s gave us a bunch of songs titled “Call Me,” from the likes of Throwing Muses (off of their self-titled 1986 debut album), the Brooklyn Funk band Skyy (1981; No. 26, BILLBOARD Hot 100, No. 1 BILLBOARD R&B, No. 3 BILLBOARD Dance), Styx’s Dennis DeYoung (1986: No. 54 Hot 100), and Go West (from their self-titled 1985 debut album; No. 54 Hot 100, No. 7 Ireland, No. 10 New Zealand, No. 12 U.K. and Australia).

Yet, with all the songs named “Call Me,” no song was greater in the 80s (or prolly for all time) than Blondie’s “Call Me” (from the Richard Gere film, AMERICAN GIGOLO).

american-gigolo-poster

The poster for the 1980 film, AMERICAN GIGOLO.

Blondie had just debuted on the Hot 100 in early February 1980 with “The Hardest Part,” the second single from their 1979 album, EAT TO THE BEAT, but the week “Call Me” debuted on the chart (at No. 80), “The Hardest Part” stalled at No. 84.  If it had been released a little earlier, maybe the chart run for “The Hardest Part” wouldn’t have been so hard.  But, “Call Me” overshadowed it and then some.  “Call Me” was so huge, it also outlasted the third and final single from EAT TO THE BEAT, the brilliant “Atomic,” which peaked at No. 39 while “Call Me” was still in the Top 30.  “Atomic” sadly fell of the chart a couple weeks later.

call-me

“Call Me,” produced by the amazing Giorgio Moroder and co-written with Debbie Harry, blasted onto the Top 40 within four weeks, and after 10 weeks, it reached No. 1 (after waiting four weeks for Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” to fall from No. 1).  “Call Me” would spend six weeks at No. 1 in April / May 1980, spent nearly half a year on the chart, was certified Gold, and would go on to become the biggest American hit of that year. 

On BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, “Call Me” spent four weeks at No. 2, and in 2015, it ranked at No. 54 on BILLBOARD’s Greatest All Time Hot 100 Singles list (and the eighth-biggest from the 80s; Olivia Newton-John’s 1981 / 1982 monster hit, “Physical,” the biggest song of the 80s, ranks at No. 8 on the entire list).

Around the world, fans rang up the theme from AMERICAN GIGOLO in a big way, reaching No. 1 in Canada (four weeks) and the U.K. (one week), plus Top 10 rankings in Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Holland, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland.

I’ve always loved “Call Me” and love playing it around Begathon time (and will again).  If I had to rank my favorite Blondie songs ever, I would say “Call Me” comes in at No. 5, a list led by “Dreaming” and “Atomic” (both from EAT TO THE BEAT), “Rapture” (from AUTOAMERICAN) and “Heart Of Glass” (from PARALLEL LINES). 

While we’re on the subject of Debbie Harry and Blondie, I remain forever grateful to my dear friend Shawn in New York, who, around this time in 2013, took me to see X and Blondie perform on the same bill at one of the last performances at the famed Roseland Ballroom (just outside of Times Square). 

blondie-x

The promo poster for the 2013 tour with Blondie and X.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned here (and as I’m sure I’ll mention again), when Debbie Harry appeared on stage, our school boy crushes for Debbie (who is a year older than my mother) came roaring back.  She was sensational (as were the rest of Blondie and X).  A concert I’ll never ever forget.  And, on the off-chance Debbie is reading this, Maine (which includes yours truly) would still love to have you and the band come up here.  Lots of great venues than there were just three years ago.  So, if you’re interested, well, you know what to do…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH3Q_CZy968

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From L to R: The members of Blondie, along with Giorgio Moroder, Richard Gere and AMERICAN GIGOLO director / writer Paul Schrader.

song of the day – “Do You Remember Rock ’n’ Roll Radio?” | RAMONES | 1980.

Being a fan of mostly Top 40 music in my younger years kept me away from a lot of the Alternative and Punk music I would grow to love in my later years.  The Ramones was one of those bands I knew about in the late 80s but never got into until many years later. escape from ny tour

One concert I wish I had attended but I skipped out on because of my then-lack of interest in the Ramones was the ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK TOUR featuring The Ramones, Debbie Harry, Tom Tom Club and Jerry Harrison’s Casual Gods, literally a who’s who of New York music royalty. 

The ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK tour found its way to Portland, Maine’s then-Cumberland County Civic Center on July 7, 1990, a Saturday night no less; the perfect time to see a show like that!  Ramones, Debbie Harry and three-quarters of Talking Heads.  Must have been amazing!  Damn.  O well.  No going back now, unless I find a working DeLorean somewhere…

The best I can do at this point is write about my love for the Ramones now.

unisphere sept 2015

The famous New York Unisphere, located behind the Queens Museum, September 2015.

Last week, during my 3-day, 3-night trip to New York City, one of the highlights was visiting the Queens Museum with my dear friend Shawn (the museum has the Unisphere in the back of the building, you know the one).  Opening just 4 days before we trekked to the museum was the incredible Ramones exhibit, HEY! HO! LET’S GO: RAMONES AND THE BIRTH OF PUNK.

All four original members of the Punk Rock legends – lead singer Joey Ramone (1951–2001), guitarist Johnny Ramone (1948–2004), bassist Dee Dee Ramone (1951–2002) and drummer Tommy Ramone (1949–2014), were from Queens (Forest Hills to be exact), and my friend Shawn even has a view of the spire atop the Forest Hills High School, where all four Ramones attended high school; a Rock, Rock, Rock and Roll High School indeed. 

“The Ramones all originate from Forest Hills and kids who grew up there either became musicians, degenerates or dentists. The Ramones are a little of each.”

—Tommy Ramone, first press release for The Ramones, 1976.

Shawn and I saw the exhibit almost 15 years to the day of the passing of Joey Ramone, who died on April 15, 2001 of lymphoma, just a month shy of his 50th birthday.  Hard to believe he’s been gone 15 years already, and still hard to believe they’re all gone now.

end of the century

The band’s fifth studio album, 1980’s END OF THE CENTURY, was the Ramones’ highest-charting album in both the U.S. and the U.K., reaching Nos. 44 and 14, respectively.  From that album, “Do You Remember Rock ’n’ Roll Radio?” was the opening track of the album, an album produced by Phil Spector, many years before the super producer – who had worked with the likes of John Lennon, George Harrison, The Righteous Brothers, The Ronettes, Ike and Tina Turner, and Leonard Cohen – was convicted of murder this week in 2009.

do you remember UK sleeve“Do You Remember Rock ’n’ Roll Radio?” is a bit of a departure for the band, which features a piano, trumpet, horn, saxophone and a synthesizer, on top of the traditional guitar, bass and drums, but is a departure that has endured for more than 35 years.  The song was covered by KISS, appeared in the third SHREK film, and most-recently, appeared in a Cadillac commercial.

I’ve loved being involved with radio for the better part of 31 years, and if anyone ever asks me, “Do YOU remember rock ’n’ roll radio?”  I’ll proudly say, “Hell yeah!  The Ramones live there…”

If you’re interested in the Ramones exhibit, HEY! HO! LET’S GO: RAMONES AND THE BIRTH OF PUNK, and if you’re in the New York City area, I highly recommend you check out.  It will be on view at the Queens Museum until July 31, 2016, and then the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles on September 16, 2016 through next year.  Go to QueensMuseum.org for more info.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJizV-d3sEQ

ramones

song of the day – “Good Times” | CHIC featuring NILE RODGERS | 1979.

As you may have seen from my last post, I’m still on a high from the concert my dear friend Shawn and I saw last week (4.12.2016) at New York’s Barclays Center, Duran Duran with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers.  It was truly one of THE best shows I’ve ever seen.  And while seeing Duran Duran perform was worth the 34-year wait, seeing Chic and Nile perform was more than worth the wait too.

Bernard + Nile

Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers.

Chic was co-formed 40 years ago by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards right in New York (Nile had mentioned at the show that the first song he wrote, “Everybody Dance,” was written not far from the venue in Brooklyn). 

In the quick 2-year period between 1977 and 1979, at the height of the disco craze, Chic picked up 5 Top 40 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 – “Everybody Dance” stopped at No. 38, while the remaining 4 Top 40 hits reached the Top 10: “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” (No. 6, 1977), “Le Freak” (No. 1, 6 weeks, 1978 /1979), “I Want Your Love” (No. 7, 1979) and today’s “song of the day,” “Good Times.”

good times 7%22Chic released “Good Times” in June 1979 (from the album, RISQUÉ) and Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards prolly had no idea how important this song would be in the realm of music history.  Or, maybe they did.  The song’s lyrics were largely based on the 1929 song, “Happy Days Are Here Again” by Milton Ager (who had just passed away a month before the song’s release, and who was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame that year).

“Good Times” didn’t take long to debut on the Hot 100, debuting the same month it was released, and just in time for Summer.  It had reached the Top 10 in just 6 weeks, and spent its lone week at No. 1 in August 1979.  “Good Times” might have stayed on top longer had it not been for the huge chart run for The Knack’s “My Sharona,” which replaced “Good Times” at No. 1 and became the biggest song of 1979.  (After spending a week at No. 1, “Good Times” was situated at No. 2 behind “My Sharona” for 3 weeks.)  “Good Times” ended up at No. 20 for all of 1979. good times v2

On other BILLBOARD charts, “Good Times” spent 6 weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart, and was the No. 1 R&B single for 1979.  Over on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, “Good Times” (along with 2 other songs from RISQUÉ – “My Forbidden Lover” and “My Feet Keep Dancing”) reached No. 3.

The good times for “Good Times” wasn’t limited to the U.S. – it reached No. 5 in the U.K. and Canada, No. 8 in New Zealand, and was a Top 40 hit in at least 4 other countries.

A month after “Good Times” hit No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100,  a Hip Hop group out of Englewood, New Jersey, The Sugarhill Gang, released “Rapper’s Delight,” a song that sampled “Good Times” and used it as the music backdrop behind their rapping.  “Rapper’s Delight” wasn’t the first song to incorporate rapping (that distinction would go to the The Fatback Band’s song released a few months before “Rapper’s Delight,” “King Tim III (Personality Jock)”), but it was the song that brought Rap and Hip Hop into the music mainstream, and in 2011, it was preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, which includes songs that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  And The Sugarhill Gang have Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards to thank for that, and I’m sure they have many times over…  At the Barclays show, Nile Rodgers even did a bit of the opening rap from “Rapper’s Delight” (much to the delight of me, Shawn and everyone in attendance).

Chic would not hit the Top 40 again after “Good Times,” though they still continue to make music, and June 2015, even scored their first No. 1 BILLBOARD Dance hit in more than 20 years with “I’ll Be There,” from the forthcoming album, IT’S ABOUT TIME, their first studio album since 1992.

Bernard Edwards, bassist and vocalist for Chic, sadly died of pneumonia after a performance in Tokyo this week in 1996.  The amazing Tony Thompson, Chic’s drummer and also a well-known session drummer, was one-quarter of the 1985 “supergroup” The Power Station, and he tragically passed away in 2003 from kidney cancer just before turning  49, and two months after the passing of another one-quarter of The Power Station, Robert Palmer.

Nile Rodgers – at 63 years old and a cancer survivor – was so amazing to watch; so much energy and positivity coming out of that talented, brilliant man.  Since Chic had 5 Top 40 hits, all memorable, they filled the rest of the hour they performed with a medley of songs written and / or produced by Nile, including “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down” by Diana Ross, and “He’s The Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. 

chic barclays

Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, live at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NYC 4.12.2016.

Then came a sensational surprise, Chic-style.  I had hoped Nile and Chic would play it, but I wasn’t sure.  The song I’m talking about is “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie.  Nile Rodgers had said that, after the disco backlash in the early 80s, no one wanted to work with him.  David Bowie was the first recording artist to reach out to him and asked Nile to work with him.  And the result was the biggest hit of David Bowie’s career. 

NileBowie

Nile Rodgers and David Bowie, photographed by Peter Gabriel.

The rest, as they say, is history.  Nile Rodgers went on to work with so many artists over the decades, including Duran Duran (truly a concert pairing of epic proportions), Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, INXS, Madonna, Mick Jagger, Thompson Twins, Laurie Anderson, Grace Jones, Depeche Mode, The B-52’s, and in 2009, with a couple of guys from Paris called Daft Punk. 

Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” single got lucky with Nile Rodgers (and Pharrell Williams too), spent 5 weeks at No. 2 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, has become one of the biggest-selling digital singles of all-time (more than 9 million copies downloaded), won 2 Grammy Awards, and reached No. 1 in more than 30 countries.  (Nile and Chic also performed this, Chic-style, at the Barclays show).

Like Daft Punk, over the years, the music of Chic has inspired many recording artists, from Queen (“Another One Bites The Dust”), Debbie Harry (who worked with Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers on 1981’s KOO KOO album), and even The Smiths’ Johnny Marr.

nile rodgers 2016

Nile Rodgers, 2016.

Chic has been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 10 times, more than any other recording act, and most recently, for the 2016 class.  I’m hoping that maybe someone from the Rock Hall saw the performance of Chic featuring Nile Rodgers at the Barclays show or on another part of the tour, because not only is Chic about those “Good Times,” they’re a heluva talented band, too.  I know I’ll be thinking about those “Good Times” from the show for a long time to come. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKl6EZShaaw

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song of the day – “Vacation” | THE GO-GO’s | 1982.

For most of this week (starting today, April 10, 2016), I am on vacation for a few days with my dear friend, former Mainer, and fellow former WUMFer, Shawn, heading to New York City, where Shawn has resided for many years.  My last trip to NYC was in early October 2013, and Shawn took me to see the moving 9/11 Memorial, on a cool boat ride (in 85-degree weather) of New York Harbor (where I saw Lady Liberty), the amazing Strand bookstore, and one of the last concerts at New York’s famed Roseland Ballroom, to see X and headliner Blondie, where Debbie Harry rocked that stage, and our crushes for Debbie came roaring back.

This time out, Shawn and I are seeing Duran Duran perform, with Chic opening, which should be pretty damn cool, considering, after all of these years, I’ve never seen either perform.  Nile Rodgers has long been associated with Duran Duran, and helped them out on their latest album, PAPER GODS.  The following night, I am getting my first tattoo, of David Bowie.  Never ever had the urge to get a tattoo until he passed away a few months ago.  Should be a great time, albeit brief.

So, with this being my first vacation since starting the blog, I thought this Go-Go’s gem from 1982 was appropriate. 

vacation lp“Vacation” is the title track to the Los Angeles band’s second album.  The Go-Go’s were still on a high from the huge success of their debut album, BEAUTY AND THE BEAT.  The single for “Vacation” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 on Independence Day weekend 1982, a month after “We Got The Beat” spent its last week on the chart.

Reaching the Top 40 in just 3 weeks, “Vacation” was riding the summer wave on the Hot 100, making it to the Top 10 in 7 weeks – the same amount of time it took “We Got The Beat” to reach the upper part of the Hot 100.  “Vacation” spent 3 weeks at No. 8 in August / September 1982 and took a vacation from the Hot 100 after 14 weeks on the chart.  It would be the last time the quintet would reach the Top 10, though 1984’s “Head Over Heels” came close (No. 11).  It also reached the Top 20 on both of BILLBOARD’s Rock and Dance charts.

Around the globe, “Vacation” hit No. 10 in Canada,  No. 18 in Sweden and No. 43 in Australia.  NERDY TRIVIA NOTE: “Vacation” has the distinction here in the U.S. of being the first cassette single ever released.  At the time, cassette singles (or “cassingles”) were a novelty item, but by the late 80s, cassette singles were outselling 45s and for a few years, became the standard way to release a single.  I still have a couple of handfuls of them myself, though I don’t have this one…yet.

vacation cassette single

Since I’ll be on vacation and “have to get away,” I don’t believe I’ll be able to get to FOREVER YOUNG (although I hope I can), but rest assured, the blog and I will be back in no time.  Hey, I get to merge two of my favorite things – 80s and writing; who wouldn’t want to come back to that?

So, until next time, take care, be good, and I’ll catch you on the flip side…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fQESUBMwGg

go-go's

song of the day – “Rapture” | BLONDIE | 1981.

For years, I’ve wanted to merge two of my favorite things – 80s and writing, and with the start of this blog, it happened.  Then, I started the “song of the day” posts for the blog here, and so far so good, except for one thing: how in THE hell do I pick just one song to highlight as “song of the day?”  When I have it figured out, I’ll let you know.  For today’s “song of the day,” I went back to the January 31, 1981 BILLBOARD Hot 100 chart for inspiration. 

Blondie ruled the chart that week, with their third No. 1 song in the U.S., “The Tide Is High.”  Meanwhile, 60 positions down the chart at No. 61, they debuted with “Rapture,” the second single from their fifth studio album, AUTOAMERICAN. Blondie_-_Rapture

It didn’t take any convincing for me to love “Rapture”; loved it from the moment I heard it.  And, apart from “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang a year or so before, my young Top 40 ears hadn’t really been acquainted with Rap music.  It was pretty cool.  Then again, I was an impressionable 14-year-old, and Debbie Harry could do no wrong.  Rap legends Fab 5 Freddy and Grandmaster Flash even appeared in the video.

Everybody and their mother knows that “Rapture” was the first American No. 1 song to feature Rap.  What they may not know is that (and this is my chart nerdiness coming out again) Blondie had 4 Top 10 hits in the U.S., and all 4 hit No. 1.  “Rapture” was the last time they’d be at the summit, spending 2 weeks on top in late March / early April 1981. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHCdS7O248g

“Rapture” would go on to rule the singles charts in Canada, and the Top 10 in the U.K., Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway and South Africa.  More interesting, though, is that, like “Heart Of Glass,” which united Disco and Punk fans alike, “Rapture” was also a multi-format hit, reaching No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance Chart, and reaching the Top 40 of both the Rock chart and the Soul chart.

Blondie put out one more album the following year (THE HUNTER), before calling it quits for 16 years.  And though they never reached the U.S. Top 40 again, they continued to be one of my favorite bands, and I enjoyed Debbie’s solo hits.  Their 2014 album, GHOSTS OF DOWNLOAD, is still a favorite on my iPod and I listen to it often.  Hope to get to see them perform one more time.

Rewinding back to the 00s, in 2005, for the 2006 release of their GREATEST HITS: SOUND + VISION CD/DVD set, “Rapture” was mashed up with The Doors’ “Riders On The Storm,” and it hit the Top 10 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.  It’s still one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M3_cJBCNTM

In my Portland club DJ days in the 00s, I remember playing “Rapture Riders” when it came out, just to mess people up and see what they thought of it.  They dug it.  But, as awesome as “Rapture Riders” is, when you’re dancing to or listening to the 1981 original (especially the 10-minute remix), maybe that’s what true “Rapture” feels like…  autoamerican