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

(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 – “Easy Lover” | PHILIP BAILEY and PHIL COLLINS | 1985.

84 philI know a LOT of friends who are NOT fans of Phil Collins.  I don’t think it’s anything personal against the guy – he took over as lead singer of Genesis in 1975 when Peter Gabriel left, and brought the band its biggest success (during the 1980s); he was the only one who performed in both London and Philadelphia at LIVE AID on July 13, 1985; Phil contributed to several popular 80s singles by artists like Howard Jones, Frida, Adam Ant and Robert Plant; and, between 1981 and 1989, with seven No. 1 songs, four other Top 10 hits and three additional Top 40 hits, he was the eighth-biggest recording act here in America during the 1980s.  He’s starred in his own movie, won an Academy Award for a song from another, is a member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and has honorary doctorates at two universities and Boston’s famed Berklee College Of Music. 

Phil’s gotten his share of bad press, sure, and other recording artists through the years have dissed his work.  David Bowie once referred to his TONIGHT and NEVER LET ME DOWN albums as his “Phil Collins years / albums.”  Oasis singer / songwriter / guitarist Noel Gallagher oft-criticized Phil Collins.  After the quick success of their 1997 album, BE HERE NOW (which sold 660,000 copies in seven days in the U.K. alone), Noel Gallagher compared the album’s success to Phil Collins: “Just because you sell lots of records, it doesn’t mean to say you’re any good.  Look at Phil Collins.”

Well, I wouldn’t say I’m Phil’s biggest fan (if I never hear “Sussudio” ever again, that would be pretty effing swell), but I would say I am a big fan of his work, and especially of the work he did with Genesis.  Their brilliant 1981 album, ABACAB, was one of the first four LPs I bought with my own money.  And it remains as one of my favorite albums to this day.

abacab

Over the years, one curious and quite interesting factoid I’ve noticed with folks I know who DON’T LIKE Phil Collins in general but actually LOVE one of his big hit singles – the 1985 hit with Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey – “Easy Lover.” 

Between May and December 1984, Phil Collins was not only working on his third solo studio album, NO JACKET REQUIRED…, he also produced and contributed to Eric Clapton’s album, BEHIND THE SUN, played drums on the huge global Band Aid charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, and produced CHINESE WALL, the third solo studio album for Earth, Wind & Fire vocalist, Philip Bailey. 

Phil & Phil were both 33 years old at the time, and CHINESE WALL would become Philip Bailey’s biggest solo album ever, which was certified Gold and nominated for a Grammy Award.

chinese wall

At the end of the sessions for the CHINESE WALL album, Philip Bailey approached Phil Collins about writing a song together.  The song they recorded was a song Phil Collins once referred to as a song that “doesn’t sound like any particular era.  It’s just fantastic.”  That one-time collaboration between Philip Bailey and Phil Collins ended up being the first single released from CHINESE WALL – “Easy Lover.”  I wonder if “Easy Lover” meant “Easy to love?”  Maybe.  It certainly was, and still is.

“Easy Lover” was released in the U.S. in November 1984, and the U.K. in late February 1985.  By the end of November 1984, it had already made its debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, and reached the Top 40 in three weeks.  It didn’t really explode on the Hot 100 until mid-January 1985, when it zoomed into the chart’s Top 5, headed straight for No. 1.  Or so it looked…

Another popular hit zoomed into the Top 5 that week as well – “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner, which spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in early February 1985, with “Easy Lover” situated right behind it. 

easy lover 12 back

The back of the 12″ single for “Easy Lover.”

Though “Easy Lover” had enough momentum to be a No. 1 hit in the U.S. (it finished all of 1985 way up at No. 12, ahead of 16 out of 27 total No. 1 songs on the year-end chart), the song did earn a Grammy nomination, was certified Gold, and won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Overall Performance In A Video (which was, as Phil Collins mentioned at the beginning of the video, a music video about the making of a music video).

easy lover video

Phil & Phil trying out some dance moves in the video within a video for “Easy Lover.”

Around the globe, it was not hard for folks (Phil Collins fans and non-fans alike) to love “Easy Lover.”  It spent six weeks at No. 1 in Canada, four weeks at No. 1 in Holland, a week at No. 1 in Ireland, and reached No. 1 on Japan’s International Chart.  It also reached the Top 10 in Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland, and BILLBOARD’s R&B and Mainstream Rock charts (a rare feat).

easy lover UK

The cover for the U.K. single of “Easy Lover.”

Over in the U.K., it became Phil Collins’ second solo No. 1 single (after 1982’s “You Can’t Hurry Love”), spending four weeks on top.  I remember back in 2006, when STUCK IN THE 80s, my little 80s radio program on WMPG community radio for almost 21 years, was celebrating its tenth year on the air, and I did a STUCK IN THE 80s foreign exchange-of-sorts. 

At the time, there was a show in Brentwood, Essex, England (about 20 miles NE of London) called STUCK IN THE 80s, with a host by the name of Richard Nott (on Phoenix FM; like WMPG, a community station).  I contacted him about switching shows for a week, and he loved the idea.  So, for one week, he hosted my show and I hosted his.  It was pretty cool. 

phoenix fm

In prepping for the one-time STUCK IN THE 80s exchange, I asked Richard what his favorite 80s song was.  I may have also said, “Give me a Top 10!  Give me a Top 20!  What’s your best album?”  And, he brought this up on his version of the show.  It was pretty funny (“blah-blah-blah-blah” he added).  His all-time favorite 80s tune is “Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire, but “not far off” for Richard was “Easy Lover.”  He said, “I just enjoy it; it’s a great tune.”

And, whether or not you actually like Phil Collins, you’ve got to admit that “Easy Lover” IS a great tune, and that the teaming of Phil Bailey and Phil Collins was pure genius and truly magical.  “She’ll get a hold on you, believe it.”  Oh, I DO believe it – “Easy Lover” has had a hold on me for 32 years and counting…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkRKT6T0QLg

phil and phil

song of the day – “It’s Gonna Get Better” | GENESIS | 1983.

I found out today that someone I used to know many years ago (through a place I worked at in Portland, Maine) passed away a week ago.  We weren’t friends or anything, and I don’t know the circumstances regarding his passing, but the death of someone you know or knew makes you think about death.  At least it does for me. 

The first death I experienced was that of my 55-year-old grandmother Leona (my Mom’s mom).  She died on Groundhog Day 1982 at the age of 55, though her body looked much older.  She had emphysema and never smoked.  I’m 6 years away from that now.  Hard to believe. 

All of my grandparents and great-grandparents have been gone for years; I’ve lost high school and college classmates and close friends early to cancer; a Christmas Eve 1987 murder of one of my high school classmates remains unsolved to this day; my Oscar, who I lost 13 years ago this year and miss every day; and, an extended member of my family who left this world way too soon…

Kingly Oscar, Old Port 1996 (large)

My Oscar, looking like a King in 1996…

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea Genesis would be making their second appearance in this still-young bloggy thing of mine.  But, then again, “It’s Gonna Get Better” is another of my go-to songs to remind me to breathe and that things will get better, regardless of the situation.genesis album

“It’s Gonna Get Better” is the last of 10 songs on the excellent 1983 self-titled album by Genesis, which features such gems as the sweet and poppy “That’s All,” the powerful “Mama,” the lovely “Taking It All Too Hard,” the fun “Illegal Alien” and the amazing 1-2 punch of “Home By The Sea” / “Second Home By The Sea.”

It’s often been said that “time heals all wounds.”  I believe that to an extent.  Yes, like the song says, “if it’s gonna get better / it’s gonna take time.” 

it's gonna get betterTime does heal, for sure, but I’m not sold on it healing all wounds.  If you’ve lost someone, be it a spouse, parent, child, dog, or dear friend, I don’t care who you are, that feeling’s always going to be with you, even if it eventually becomes just a small part of you over time.  But, don’t worry – and remember – it’s gonna get better…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57rIjdqeI2Q

genesis

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “I Know There’s Something Going On” | FRIDA | 1983.

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

abba 1982

ABBA, sometime in 1982 before the end…

When the 4-member Swedish pop group ABBA disbanded at the end of 1982 (after 8 studio albums, 4 compilations, more than 40 singles and 2 failed marriages within the group), the male half of ABBA – Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus continued working together for a time, including the 1984 stage musical CHESS, and returned them to the upper realm of the pop charts worldwide, when they co-wrote and co-produced (with Tim Rice) “One Night In Bangkok,” sung by Murray Head.  “One Night In Bangkok” was a No. 1 hit in at least 7 countries worldwide, and reached No. 3 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late May 1985.

The female half of ABBA – Anni-Frid Lyngstad (Frida) and Agnetha Fältskog continued on with solo careers.  Agnetha had been putting out Swedish albums and singles (and some German singles) for years by the time ABBA got its first big hit with “Waterloo” back in 1974.  After ABBA broke up, she released 5 English-language albums between 1983 and 2013. 

something's going onFrida, meanwhile, had released 2 albums in the 70s and 3 post-ABBA albums between 1982 and 1996.  The biggest of those, SOMETHING’S GOING ON, was released in September 1982.  Atlantic Records labelmate and Genesis drummer Phil Collins, who had released just 2 solo albums at that point, produced the album, provided backing vocals and played drums as well.

There was something quite special on SOMETHING’S GOING ON, especially the first single released from the album, “I Know There’s Something Going On,” written by Russ Ballard. 

If the name Russ Ballard rings a bell, it should – he was the vocalist on the 1972 Argent hit, “Hold Your Head Up.”  He also wrote music for Three Dog Night, Hot Chocolate, Roger Daltrey, the 1979 Ace Frehley hit “New York Groove,” the 1981 Santana hit “Winning,” he wrote and produced the 1983 comeback hit for America, “You Can Do Magic,” and even managed a hit of his own with 1980’s “On The Rebound,” and a 1984 MTV hit (and a personal favorite of mine), “Voices.”  Russ even wrote a song called “Can’t Shake Loose” by ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog, which was a U.S. Top 30 hit near the end of 1983.

i know there's something going on“I Know There’s Something Going On” must have known it was something big in most parts of the globe, reaching No. 1 in Belgium, Costa Rica, France and Switzerland, and the Top 10 in Austria, Australia, Holland, Finland, Germany, Italy, Frida’s homeland of Norway, Poland, South Africa and Sweden. 

Here in the U.S., sometimes it takes us awhile before we know there’s something going on with pop music from Europe, at least that was the case with this song.  It took more than 3 months to reach the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, and eventually spent 3 weeks at No. 13 in March / April 1983, with a total of 29 weeks on the chart.  Despite stopping at No. 13, because it spent so much time on the Hot 100, Frida and “I Know There’s Something Going On” finished at No. 20 for all of 1983, beating out No. 1 songs like “Africa” by Toto, “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker  & Jennifer Warnes, and Toni Basil’s “Mickey.”

Though she had more success with other songs in Europe, “I Know There’s Something Going On” was Frida’s lone Hot 100 hit here in America.  But what a hit.  I know sometimes folks make fun of Phil Collins, but when he’s producing and hammering on those drums, he can sure put out a winner.  And, from the moment I heard this song in 1982 to tonight, I still know there’s something going on with this one; I always will…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p98PjtSfNWo

frida

Frida, er, Anni-Frid in 1983…

song of the day – “Man On The Corner” | GENESIS | 1982.

I was in Portland, Maine today (1/31/16), for the little community radio show, and minutes after arriving into the Forest City, not far from Portland’s famed Old Port, I noticed more luxury condos going up.  Several years back, a longtime favorite restaurant of yours truly (remember The Village Cafe?) was traded in for luxury condos.  At the time, there was nothing in front or behind the new condos, but now, you’ve got condos being built inbetween condos.  It’s absurd.  There’s no quality views either, because in front of all the condos, there is a relatively new hotel blocking the potential views. 

I lived in Portland for 14 years between 1994 and 2008, and have been away now for 8 years.  I love Portland, but I don’t recognize it anymore.  Between all of the hotels and expensive condos and other rental monstrosities being built all over Portland’s popular (and populated) peninsula over the past several years, it doesn’t look like the city I fell in love all those years ago. 

no vacancy

New Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling wants to keep middle-class folks in the city, but with a rental vacancy rate below 2% and no affordable housing being built (that I know of), he’s got his work cut out for him.  If Portland’s not careful, it’s going to implode.  And that would be a Goddamn Greek tragedy…or something like it.

abacabSeeing more ugly, pricey condos going up in Portland got me thinking about those in need – those who are unemployed, homeless or both.  Not enough is being done for them.  Portland’s more concerned about kicking out people who can’t afford to live there in lieu of tourists paying top dollar to visit.  Breaks my heart, and made me think about today’s “song of the day” – “Man On The Corner” by Genesis, from their excellent 1981 album, ABACAB (one of the first albums I ever bought).  “Man On The Corner” spent 2 weeks at No. 40 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in May 1982.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlrSWx8WY9I

“Man On The Corner” was the first of 2 songs Phil Collins wrote about the problem of homelessness; his 1989 No. 1 hit, “Another Day In Paradise” also tackled homelessness in song. man on the corner

There have been several songs about homelessness in the years since, including “Mr. Wendel” by Arrested Development and “Under The Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it was “Man On The Corner,” a simple song with a deeper message, that first brought the subject of homelessness to my attention. 

When I lived in Portland 20 years ago, rents were reasonable, apartments were available and you never saw folks standing on busy street corners asking for whatever help they can get.  Now they’re everywhere.  I would help them all out if I could.  For now, I hope, somehow, that Portland, Maine’s new mayor or the powers that be read this post, and realize that more needs to be done, whether it’s more affordable housing, more shelters, more places for people to get a free meal – just something more than what is being done or not being done right now. 

I still love Portland.  I always will.  And I will continue to pray for that man (or woman) on the corner, and hope that one day people will know them, and that people will care, and there will be a place for them – safe, sound, and something to show…  genesis shirt