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.
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).
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,” 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).
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…