song of the day – “Abracadabra” | STEVE MILLER BAND | 1982.

colin hay strand 081617

Waiting for the real Colin Hay to begin, Rockland, Maine, 8.16.2017. He was, of course, fantastic and soulful.

Hey everyone!  Thanks so much for being patient with me, as I’ve taken an unexpected (but quite enjoyable) absence from the bloggy thing since the end of July.  There’s been work stuff, home stuff, I had a fun time attending concerts featuring Blondie, the 80s Retro Futura Tour (including Howard Jones, Modern English, Men Without Hats, Paul Young, Katrina of Katrina And The Waves, and The English Beat!), and most recently, seeing the wonderful Colin Hay in beautiful Rockland, Maine. 

I’ve also been spending a lot of quality time with the incredible and awesome Hope, my superfriend, sassy radio co-host and writing hero, which included a swim in the cold Atlantic Ocean here in Maine that changed me forever.  There’s a lot more to say, and I will, in a post coming soon that will be about Hope and that swim in the ocean and much more!  And Hope comes up again later in this post, so stay tuned!!

HopeyT and me

That’s the absolutely lovely HopeyT and me, Kettle Cove State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 9.2.2017!

When I started my tribute to my radio hero, Casey Kasem, back on June 1, school was in session and Summer was weeks away.  Well, it’s now September 9, 2017, school is back in session and Fall is less than two weeks away.  I’ve had fun bringing you this tribute to Casey (who passed away in June 2014 at the age of 82), and wanted to make sure (1) you all didn’t think I would hold out on the Number One song of this tribute, and (2) that I get this in ASAFP, because what’s a Top 40 countdown without a Number One song?

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Much like AMERICAN TOP 40, this post will be full of nerdy chart facts and then some, but first, I wanted to recap the songs I’ve posted in this series so far.  These songs (which include five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), are ranked at the positions they peaked at on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (with peak year), and though they do not represent a definitive Top 40 list for me, but I love all of them, and hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them!

40. CLONES (WE’RE ALL) – ALICE COOPER (1980)

39. SLIPPING AWAY – DAVE EDMUNDS (1983)

38. PROMISES IN THE DARK – PAT BENATAR (1981)

37. WHISPER TO A SCREAM (BIRDS FLY) – ICICLE WORKS (1984; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

36. SOMETIMES A FANTASY – BILLY JOEL (1980)

35. FAKE FRIENDS – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1983)

34. ME MYSELF AND I – DE LA SOUL (1989)

33. PRIDE (IN THE NAME OF LOVE) – U2 (1984)

32. VALLEY GIRL – FRANK & MOON ZAPPA (1982)

31. (GHOST) RIDERS IN THE SKY – THE OUTLAWS (1981)

30. LIES – THOMPSON TWINS (1983)

29. TURN UP THE RADIO – AUTOGRAPH (1985; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

28. POINT OF NO RETURN – NU SHOOZ (1986)

27. THE RIGHT THING – SIMPLY RED (1987)

26. NOT JUST ANOTHER GIRL – IVAN NEVILLE (1988)

25. TAKE ME WITH YOU – PRINCE & THE REVOLUTION featuring APOLLONIA (1985)

24. ONE WAY OR ANOTHER – BLONDIE (1979)

23. YOU CAN CALL ME AL – PAUL SIMON (1986 / 1987)

22. AIN’T NOBODY – RUFUS & CHAKA KHAN (1983)

21. FOOL IN THE RAIN – LED ZEPPELIN (1980)

20. OUR LIPS ARE SEALED – THE GO-GO’S (1982)

19. PUSH IT – SALT-N-PEPA (1988)

18. LET ME TICKLE YOUR FANCY – JERMAINE JACKSON with DEVO (1982)

17. YOU ARE THE GIRL – THE CARS (1987)

16. HOLIDAY – MADONNA (1984)

15. ONE OF THE LIVING – TINA TURNER (1985)

14. DIGGING YOUR SCENE – THE BLOW MONKEYS (1986; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

13. TARZAN BOY – BALTIMORA (1986)

12. WHAT’S GOING ON – CYNDI LAUPER (1987)

11. EDGE OF SEVENTEEN – STEVEIE NICKS (1982)

10. RELAX – FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD (1985)

09. THE ONE I LOVE – R.E.M. (1987)

08. LET THE MUSIC PLAY – SHANNON (1984)

07. WHAT I AM – EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS (1989)

06. INFATUATION – ROD STEWART (1984)

05. WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHIN’ – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983)

04. HEART AND SOUL – T’PAU (1987; (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s)

03. LOVE SHACK – THE B-52’S (1989)

02. DANCING IN THE DARK – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (1984)

Throughout this series, I’ve been mentioned how many songs peaked at each position between 1979 and 1989.  It’s only fitting that songs which reached No. 1 would have the highest number of songs hitting the apex of the BILLBOARD Hot 100.  For this post, I am only counting the songs that reached No. 1 between January 1980 and December 1989, and for that 80s time period, 232 songs went all the way to No. 1.  Let’s get nerdy now (if you’re not already there), with some chart feats about No. 1 songs during the 80s and the BILLBOARD Hot 100:

  • FOUR (REAL) ONE-HIT WONDERS reached No. 1 during the 80s – Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”), the second-chance single, “When I’m With You” by Sheriff, Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice Theme,” and Vangelis (“Chariots Of Fire (Titles)”), though the composer did reach the chart separately twice in the early 80s as part of the duo Jon & Vangelis, with Jon Anderson of Yes.

miami vice theme

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (27); MOST NO. 1 SONGS FROM ONE ALBUM (5); MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (9) – Michael Jackson.  The King Of Pop reached No. 1 in the 80s with “Rock With You” (1980; 4 weeks at No. 1), “Billie Jean” (1983; 7 weeks), “Beat It” (1983; 3 weeks), “Say Say Say,” with Paul McCartney (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks), “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” with Siedah Garrett (1987; 1 week), “Bad” (1987; 2 weeks), “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1988; 1 week), “Man In The Mirror” (1988; 2 weeks); “Dirty Diana” (1988; 1 week).beat it
  • MOST NO. 1 SONGS IN THE 80s (if you’re NOT Michael Jackson): Madonna (7), Phil Collins (7 solo hits), Whitney Houston (7), George Michael (6 solo hits, which includes “Careless Whisper”), Daryl Hall & John Oates (5), Lionel Richie (5).

crazy 4 U

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT ON THE HOT 100 – 40 – “Red Red Wine” – UB40. It spent 25 weeks on the Hot 100, including a week at No. 1 in 1988, and had charted for 15 weeks in its first chart run in 1984.

red red wine

  • MOST CONFIGURATIONS AT NO. 1 – PAUL McCARTNEY, with Wings (“Coming Up (Live At Glasgow),” 1980), with Stevie Wonder (“Ebony And Ivory,” 1982), and with Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say,” 1983 / 1984).

coming up

  • NO. 1 WITH MOST WEEKS SPENT IN THE TOP 10 OF THE HOT 100 (15) – “Physical – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982), and “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982).  SUPER NERDY FUN FACT: the song which spent the most weeks in the Top 10 in the 80s didn’t even reach No. 1 – “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp spent 16 weeks in the Top 10, with four of those weeks in the runner-up spot.

survivor

  • MOST WEEKS SPENT AT NO. 1 IN THE 80s (10) – “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (1981 / 1982).  While it’s more commonplace on the Hot 100 these days, the biggest song of the 1980s would be the only song to spend at least 10 weeks at No. 1 on the chart for next 10 years.  In 1992, Boyz II Men spent a then-record 13 weeks at No. 1 with “End Of The Road.”  Two No. 1 songs later, Whitney Houston would break that record with “I Will Always Love You,” which spent its 14th and final week on top in late February 1993.  The current record is 16 weeks at No. 1.

physical

In the most recent tabulation of the Greatest Of All Time Hot 100 songs for BILLBOARD’s legendary singles chart, many songs from the 80s were represented, and are currently ranked as follows:

08. “Physical” – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 1)

15. “Bette Davis Eyes” – KIM CARNES (1981; 9 weeks)

16. “Endless Love” – DIANA ROSS & LIONEL RICHIE (1981; 9 weeks)

24. “Eye Of The Tiger” – SURVIVOR (1982; 6 weeks)

29. “Every Breath You Take” – THE POLICE (1983; 8 weeks)

31. “Flashdance…What A Feeling” – IRENE CARA (1983; 6 weeks)

40. “Another One Bites The Dust” – QUEEN (1980; 3 weeks)

41. “Say Say Say” – PAUL McCARTNEY & MICHAEL JACKSON (1983 / 1984; 6 weeks)

54. “Call Me” – BLONDIE (1980; 6 weeks)

57. “Lady” – KENNY ROGERS (1980; 6 weeks)

63. “Centerfold” – THE J. GEILS BAND (1982; 6 weeks)

64. “(Just Like) Starting Over” – JOHN LENNON (1980 / 1981; 5 weeks)

68. “I Love Rock ’N Roll” – JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS (1982; 7 weeks)

73. “Ebony And Ivory” – PAUL McCARTNEY & STEVIE WONDER (1982; 7 weeks)

75. “That’s What Friends Are For” – DIONNE & FRIENDS (1986; 4 weeks)

77. “Upside Down” – DIANA ROSS (1980; 4 weeks)

83. “Billie Jean” – MICHAEL JACKSON (1983; 7 weeks)

86. “Abracadabra” – THE STEVE MILLER BAND (1982; 2 weeks)

89. “Say You, Say Me” – LIONEL RICHIE (1985 / 1986; 4 weeks)

91. “All Night Long (All Night)” – LIONEL RICHIE (1983; 4 weeks)

95. “Waiting For A Girl Like You” – FOREIGNER (1981 / 1982; 10 weeks at No. 2; still tied for a record for spending the most weeks peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100)

98. “Hurts So Good” – JOHN MELLENCAMP (1982; 4 weeks at No. 2)

So, for now, the 80s represent more than a fifth of the greatest hits to grace the BILLBOARD HOT 100.  Pretty damn cool.  I know it won’t always be like that, and I always wonder why some huge hits like Prince’s “When Doves Cry” (No. 1 for 1984) or Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” (No. 2 for 1980) aren’t up there, but songs these days tend to stay atop the Hot 100 (and the chart as a whole) a lot longer than they did back in the day, but honestly, I’m grateful for the songs that are still there. 

When I was preparing for this hefty blog post (prolly my second-longest, save for the Prince tribute post in April 2016), I was going through the list of No. 1 songs, and there are some songs I’ve already featured as a “song of the day” (Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” comes to mind, and has often as of late), and there are many others I love. 

TFF

U2_des_7But, I concede that there are some real stinkers in there, too: Will To Power’s awful covers medley of “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Freebird” (subtitled “Freebaby,” which is just heinous)?!  How in THE HELL did that get to go to No. 1 and “I Don’t Want Your Love” by Duran Duran stops at No. 4, and U2’s “Desire” stops at No. 3?!  For the love of all things holy!  And though I admit enjoying the movie MANNEQUIN, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship?!  Are you kidding me?!  Even Grace Slick denounced that piece of shit.  While the go-to “worst song of the 80s” award is usually 1985’s “We Built This City,” I can tolerate that way more over “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”  Yes, I’m THAT guy.

If I was going for my absolute favorite No. 1 song of the 80s, there’s no competition.  It’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds.  It’s also my all-time favorite song.  But it’s a post I want to save for another time.  So, I thought it would be fun to bring in Hope, my writing hero, who, unlike yours truly, doesn’t obsess and write about nerdy chart facts or Top 40 hits, let alone ones that hit No. 1.  I thought it would be cool to have her choose the song for this post.

don't you

On August 11, 2017, Hope was kind enough to send me her list of her picks for No. 1 songs from the 80s, many of which have been already mentioned in this post!  One of those songs, and a song that is almost universally loved (like “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, or the aforementioned Tears For Fears, Prince and Simple Minds gems) is “Abracadabra” by The Steve Miller Band.abracadabra7

Hope had included “Abracadabra” under the category of “Situational” No. 1 songs.  For Hope, “Abracadabra” was popular during the Summer after her high school graduation (“the glamorous Summer in The Hamptons!”), and she loves the line, “black panties with an angel’s face.”  Who wouldn’t love that line?!  It’s awesome (much like Hope herself)!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin native Steve Miller formed his Psychedelic Rock / Blues Rock band in San Francisco back in 1966.  Since his first two albums were released in 1968, through to his 1988 Jazz album, BORN 2 B BLUE, Steve Miller had been on Capitol Records, and he had some huge albums in the 70s. 

heart like a wheel

After 1981’s CIRCLE OF LOVE album (with the sweet Top 40 hit and criminally-forgotten gem, “Heart Like A Wheel”) failed to become his fourth consecutive platinum album here in America (though it was certified Gold), Steve was undeterred, got to work, and released the ABRACADABRA album in mid-June 1982.

abracadabra LP

Of the album, ROLLING STONE said, “The essence of good magic is deception, and with the release of this album, Steve Miller has earned the right to twirl his wand and shout, ‘Abracadabra!’”

Well, Steve thought so too, but Capitol wasn’t so sure.  The song inspired by Diana Ross (whom Steve met on a Pop music TV show in the 60s) told THE HOWARD STERN SHOW in 2016 that Capitol Records didn’t see a hit with the song “Abracadabra”:

“Capitol didn’t believe in [“Abracadabra”] and didn’t want to release it.  I had a different deal with Phonogram in Europe.  When it came out in Europe, I cancelled my American tour because it was Number One everywhere in the world, except the States.”  Once again, the record label got it wrong.

Well, after seeing the success of “Abracadabra” overseas, Capitol gave in and released it in the U.S., a month before the ABRACADABRA album was released.  “Abracadabra” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late May 1982 at No. 75, and took just four weeks to debut within the Top 40. 

The next few weeks were a steady climb, and by late July 1982, “Abracadabra” had become Steve Miller’s first Top 10 hit in five years, to the month.  With John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good” camped out at No. 2, and Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” camped out at No. 1, “Abracadabra” was stuck at No. 3 for four weeks before it could work its magic on reaching No. 1. 

In early September 1982, after 15 weeks on the chart, “Abracadabra” finally hit No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, giving Steve Miller his third No. 1 U.S. single overall, and his first No. 1 single since 1976’s “Rock’n Me” spent a week on top.  The No. 1 run of “Abracadabra” was just as quick as “Rock’n Me,” and his first No. 1 song, 1974’s “The Joker,” which also spent a lone week at No. 1.

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The Steve Miller Band, 1982.

The following week, Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” snuck into the No. 1 position when no one was looking and stayed there for two weeks.  “Abracadabra” dropped to No. 3 (behind previous No. 1, “Eye Of The Tiger”).  But, in a magical chart feat, “Abracadabra” moved back up to No. 2 the next week, and by the end of September, “Abracadabra” reclaimed the No. 1 spot for one more week, before John Mellencamp’s little ditty about “Jack And Diane” started its four-week run at No. 1.  “Abracadabra” stayed on the Hot 100 until mid-Novemer 1982, and left the chart after nearly half a year.  It finished the year at No. 9 here in America. 

Around the globe, “Abracadabra” worked its magic on the singles charts of many countries, reaching No. 1 in Switzerland (six weeks), Sweden (four weeks), Australia and Canada (two weeks), and Austria, No. 2 in the U.K., Germany and Ireland, No. 4 in Norway, No. 8 in New Zealand, and No. 26 in the Netherlands.

“Abracadabra” was the last song The Steve Miller Band placed inside of the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, though they charted several more times through 1993, including the brilliant but oddly-underrated “I Want To Make The World Turn Around” from 1986.

i want to make the world turn around

Steve Miller continues to tour today, and in 2016, he was inducted as a solo artist into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, where he had some not so nice things to say about the whole thing, calling the Hall a “private boys’ club full of fucking gangsters and crooks,” and vowing to make it better. 

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The Steve Miller Band, 2015.

He suggested taking the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame nominating committee, replace every one of them and start over.  I hope it works out, because Devo, from Akron, Ohio (less than an hour south of Cleveland, where the Hall is based), should have been inducted years ago, much like the incomparable Cyndi Lauper, who has taken on Blues, Standards, Folk, Dance and Country music in the past 15 years, not to mention writing a book, winning a Tony Award and co-founding the True Colors Fund, which works to end homelessness among LGBT youth, and even testified before Maine Senator Susan Collins in 2015 about this very subject. 

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This photo of Steve at the 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony speaks volumes, and not favorably for the Hall…

As for me and Hope and many others for “Abracadabra,” it’s one of those infectious songs that deserved to go to No. 1, and 35 years later, it still holds up.  At least the five-minute, eleven-second album version.  When the single was released, I bought it, but was instantly pissed it wasn’t the long version!  Sure, it’s only a minute and change difference, but if you hear the single version vs. the album version, you can tell the single version is a bit sped up, and the kick-ass instrumental that closes out the rest of the song isn’t there.  That’s even why I chose the video link below.  It’s not a link to the actual video, but to the album version.  You know, all these years later, I’m still impressed that sped up, edited single version got the song to No. 1.  Maybe that was magic too.

Speaking of magic, Hope inspired me recently to start training for a 5K using the Couch To 5K app (C25K); we’re both training for it, and finishing Week 5 of 8 this weekend!  Hope and I haven’t run a proper 5K in our adult lives, and the last time I ran the equivalent of a 5K was in high school during Cross Country, where I lettered my senior year.  Holy cats, that was 33 years ago! 

run ron run

Post-run workout, 9.7.2017! (With a kick-ass playlist by DJ HopeyT to keep me going!)

But, you know what?  Maybe it’s not magic after all that’s got us training for our first 5K ever – and in our early 50s!  Maybe you just need to believe.  Just like Steve Miller believed he had a hit with “Abracadabra,” even as his longtime record label disagreed – and he was right!  It’s one of THE BEST songs of the 80s and of all-time.  And I believe getting through this 5K (and other aspects of my life) will happen with belief over magic, though I have to say, when it happens, it will feel pretty damn magical and then some…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKCV8gzSlYw

abacadabra poster

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

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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. 

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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.

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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

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song of the day – “Iko Iko” | THE BELLE STARS | 1982 / 1989.

The decade of excess gave us an excess of songs that were given a second chance on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 singles chart, songs like “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” “Twist And Shout” by The Beatles, “Do You Love Me?” by The Contours and “At This Moment” by Billy Vera & The Beaters, to name a handful. 

For whatever reason, 1989 was an especially popular year for singles to have a second go on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, including Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” (1986), “What About Me?” by Moving Pictures (1983), “When I’m With You” by Sheriff (1983), “Where Are You Now?” by Jimmy Harnen with Synch (1986) and “Into The Night” by Benny Mardones (1980). 

Another song that achieved success in 1989 but not originally from that year was “Iko Iko” by the seven-member, all-female New Wave band out of London, The Belle Stars, who formed in London in 1980 and broke up in 1986.

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The origin of “Iko Iko” dates back to the early 1950s, when it was titled “Jock-A-Mo,” and was a 1953 single written and recorded by New Orleans group Sugar Boy And His Cane Cutters. 

jock-a-moAccording to a 2002 interview with the late James “Sugar Boy” Crawford (who passed away in 2012), he said the story of “Iko Iko” is about a “spy boy” [a lookout for one band of Indians] encountering the “flag boy” [the flag carrier for another “tribe”].  The “spy boy” threatens to “set the flag on fire.” 

“Sugar Boy” Crawford said “Jock-A-Mo” “came from two Indian chants that I put music to.  ‘Iko Iko’ was like a victory chant that the Indians would shout. ‘Jock-A-Mo’ was a chant that was called when the Indians went into battle.  I just put them together and made a song out of them.” 

Though it was not a hit, the next incarnation of “Jock-A-Mo” in 1965 – “Iko Iko” – was.  The Dixie Cups, an all-female Pop group out of New Orleans, best known for their hit, “Chapel Of Love,” recorded their version in 1964, and the following year, it was a global smash.

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In 1982, The Belle Stars released their version of “Iko Iko” in their homeland of the U.K. on Stiff Records, and it was a Top 40 U.K. hit, reaching No. 35.  Their cover would appear on the only studio album they released, their self-titled effort released in January 1983, and which featured the U.K. hits, “The Clapping Song” (a version of this was an American Top 40 hit for Pia Zadora in 1983), “Indian Summer” and “Sign Of The Times,” which reached No. 3 in the U.K. and No. 75 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100.

The Belle Stars’ version of “Iko Iko” went virtually unnoticed here in America until its opening appearance in the wonderful Academy Award-winning film, RAIN MAN, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, and released at the end of 1988.

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Their version of “Iko Iko” was included on the soundtrack to RAIN MAN, and it didn’t take long for it to catch the ears of folks like yours truly here in America.  It debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early March 1989, and reached the Top 40 four weeks later. 

The Belle Stars’ version of “Iko Iko” would go on to spend a lone week at No. 14 in mid-May 1989, and remained on the charts for about four months.  It also reached No. 7 in Australia and No. 17 in Canada.  Since then, it has been featured in a number of other films, including THE HANGOVER in 2009.

“Iko Iko” remains as one of the most-covered songs of all-time.  Cyndi Lauper recorded a version for her second album, 1986’s TRUE COLORS.  It’s been also covered by Dr. John, Warren Zevon, Zap Mama (whose version appeared in the 2000 film, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II), and most recently, on THE TONIGHT SHOW featuring Sia, Jimmy Fallon, Natalie Portman and The Roots.

the belle stars LP

It’s the 1982 / 1989 version by The Belle Stars, though, that is the version that stays close to me to this day, and I’m forever grateful that someone involved with the film, RAIN MAN, discovered it and thought it was good enough to include in the movie, and ultimately, release it as a single, so many folks (like yours truly) could, in turn, discover it too. “IKO!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9RxSDgesKk

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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.

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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). 

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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.

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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

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xmas song of the day – “The Power Of Love” | FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD | 1984.

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

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The song for Day 26 of THE 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS is a song I had intended on posting for you before Xmas, but after the terror attacks during the past couple of days in parts of the globe – notably a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany – this was on my mind: “The Power Of Love” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.fgth-logo

Written by four out of the five members of the Liverpool, England band, “The Power Of Love” was released in mid-November 1984 as the third single from their brilliant double-album debut, WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME. 

Though the song itself has no reference to Christmas itself, the video for “The Power Of Love” depicts the birth of Christ, the single features a reproduction of the 16th Century painting of the Assumption of the Virgin, and, in the process, many folks (including yours truly) considered this to be a Christmas song.

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It only took three weeks from its November 19, 1984 release for “The Power Of Love” to reach No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart.  It gave Frankie Goes To Hollywood their third consecutive No. 1 U.K. hit, following one of the most controversial songs ever (“Relax”) and a Cold War Classic (“Two Tribes”), and gave Frankie the distinction of being only the second act in U.K. singles chart history to reach No. 1 with their first three releases.  The first act, by the way, was Gerry & The Peacemakers, also from Liverpool, and whom Frankie covered on WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME (with “Ferry Cross The Mersey”).  Gerry & Co. did the feat in 1963.

“The Power Of Love” might have spent more than a week at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart had it not been for the next song to reach No. 1- the charity record by Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  For nearly thirteen years, that single would become the biggest-selling U.K. single ever until “Candle In The Wind 1997” by Elton John.

Around the globe, “The Power Of Love” was a Top 10 hit in at least Australia, Austria, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and Switzerland, and was certified Gold in the U.K. and Italy.  It was re-issued in 1993 and reached No. 10 in the U.K., and a 2000 remix reached No. 6.

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The gatefold version of “The Power Of Love” 12″ single I picked up back in the day.  In the lower left corner, it reads, appropriately enough, “Thou shalt not bend.”

Sometime after the song’s release, FGTH lead singer (and co-writer) Holly Johnson once said, “I always felt like The Power Of Love was the record that would save me in this life.  There is a biblical aspect to its spirituality and passion; the fact that love is the only thing that matters in the end.”

Dedicated to Berlin and beyond…  #BerlinAndBeyond #ThePowerOfLove #LoveTrumpsHate

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyoTvgPn0rU

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xmas song of the day – “Thank God It’s Christmas” | QUEEN | 1984.

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

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It’s now less than two weeks until Xmas, and for Day 18 of the 31 DAYS OF 80s XMAS SONGS, I’ve chosen Queen’s wonderful and original holiday classic, “Thank God It’s Christmas.”

There was a wealth of memorable holiday songs originating from the U.K. for Xmas 1984 – including “The Power Of Love” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, “Last Christmas” by Wham! and Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  Queen’s “Thank God It’s Christmas” was in that class too.

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Released at the end of November 1984, “Thank God It’s Christmas” was a stand-alone single not from any album (the band had released their album, THE WORKS, released at the end of February 1984).  The song was written by lead guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor.

With MTV only a few years old at that point, music videos were immensely popular, but for whatever reason, there was no video filmed for “Thank God It’s Christmas,” which most likely hindered its chart performance.  It peaked at No. 21 on the U.K. singles chart in 1984.  Over in Ireland, it fared much better, reaching No. 8.  In 1985, it reached No. 21 in Austria, and in 2015, it became a Top 40 seasonal hit in Denmark and Poland.

“Oh my friend it’s been / A long hard year / But now it’s Christmas / Thank God it’s Christmas…” 

“Thank God It’s Christmas” may not be one of the more popular or well-known holiday songs from the 80s, but I’ve loved “Thank God It’s Christmas” for a long time, and I don’t mind saying I’m thankful for it this time of year…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fu3uA8K6ApQ

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

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

stuck-holiday-show-promo-art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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